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FoodTech Report

Volume 6 Issue 3

Ask the Expert:
Slicer brings consistency to entire line

First bite

For many, becoming a repeat customer at a restaurant is all about the first bite. The food’s texture, moisture level and taste all contribute to quality and consistency, which brings people back again and again. Quick-service and other restaurants that utilize pre-cut and portioned whole muscle foods depend on their food processing partners for portioned meat products that comply with strict weight and size specifications. Consistently achieving the portion quality specifications means each piece cooks perfectly in the allotted time, retains the right level of moisture and fits on the bun or achieves the desired plate presentation.

For many processors, a high-performance slicer is imperative to providing consistent cuts on whole muscle meat products while containing costs. Without it, processors may experience higher levels of rejected product or must modify the production line to accommodate variable thickness. With consistent thickness, product operators can fine-tune their line and realize improved production yield, quality and cost savings. This issue is especially crucial for horizontally sliced poultry breast meat for which many processors are seeking consistent performance at high production volumes.

Dave Faires, DSI™ process solutions expert for JBT FoodTech, discusses the importance of consistent horizontal slicing in production and the negative domino effect that can occur from variation in thickness.

Q: Why can consistent horizontal slicing be difficult to achieve?
A: Poultry breast meat naturally varies significantly in thickness, which is a challenge to processors that need to comply with size and weight specifications required by restaurant chains. Many existing mechanical slicers use a hold-down system that does not allow for the natural size variation in the meat. The result is that large products receive more hold-down pressure than small products while being sliced. The larger pieces spring back to their natural state after the slicer hold-down pressure is released, generating thickness variation.

DSI Consistent Thickness Slicer
The DSI™ Consistent Thickness Slicer helps the entire portion, coat, cook and freeze line run more smoothly and profitably.

Q: How can the industry overcome this challenge?
A: JBT FoodTech has developed a proprietary, compliant hold system that eliminates the differences in pressure and the resulting differences in spring-back. The DSI Consistent Thickness Slicer improves consistency of slice thickness by more than 25 percent compared with other systems.

Q: Why is it important to focus on thickness at the front of a meat processing line?
A: When the sliced meat is being automatically portioned to a fixed weight downstream of the slicer, meat cut too thick can result in too little area, generating what is called a template failure. In such a case, the weight is correct but the shape is not acceptable because many restaurants want a certain amount of area or bun coverage. Consistent meat thickness results in more products that pass quality assurance specifications, less time required for rework and more prime finished product at the end of the shift.

A closely related issue is marinade pickup. If the thickness on a processing line varies significantly, then so does the area-to-weight ratio of each piece of product, which makes the marination and coating process difficult to control.

The tighter the distribution of size and thickness upstream in the process, the better each subsequent process runs. If the first step in the process is out of control, the problems on the processing line grow like a snowball rolling downhill. Focusing on slicing is one approach that keeps processor’s problems from ever starting or growing.

Q: How can thickness affect the downstream process?
A: The downstream cooking process must be designed to adequately cook the thickest piece of meat for reasons of food safety. This means the thin pieces of meat in each batch are often overcooked, which can cause yield loss for the processor while driving up production costs and potentially compromising the processor’s relationship with its restaurant chain clients.

JBT FoodTech often sees situations where the oven or fryer is being used to correct for upstream process variability. The DSI Consistent Thickness Slicer offers a consistent thickness product that helps processors get the portion, coat, cook and freeze process started right — which results in positive influences all the way down the line.

To learn more about slicing meat consistently, visit the JBT FoodTech Web site.

Do you have a question about food processing technology that you would like a JBT FoodTech expert to address in the next issue of FoodTech Report?  Submit your question.


DSI™ and Stein™ are trademarks of JBT Corporation.
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