Land O’Frost, which specializes in pre-sliced deli meats and specialty sausage products, wanted to start a new line of premium sliced meat sub kits for retail sale. The company aimed to add value by conveniently grouping a variety of meats in sandwich-sized portions, interleaved with sanitary wax paper.
“We required a higher-volume, more sanitary solution than manual interleaving could provide,” says Steve Jones, maintenance engineering manager at Land O’Frost’s Searcy, Arkansas, plant, who was involved with the production aspects of the new product line.
While meat and poultry plants are commonly cleaned and sanitized during the night shift after two work shifts each day, Land O’Frost goes further, typically undertaking multiple phases of cleaning and sanitizing for eight hours a day to ensure its plants are not only visibly clean, but microbiologically clean.
This process usually includes equipment disassembly, pre-rinsing, soaping and scrubbing, foaming walls and floors and a flood rinse with hot water as well as visual inspection and microbiological sample collection to ensure the elimination of any potential debris, contaminants or bacteria. Before the company starts production, USDA inspectors verify its plants are truly sanitary.
Land O’ Frost’s commitment to food safety led it to choose interleaving equipment from Packaging Progressions (PacPro), which designs and manufactures automatic, high-speed interleavers, stackers and card dispensers.
“PacPro worked closely with us on the sanitary equipment design and machine guarding,” says Jones. “As our production grew and we acquired additional equipment, each interleaver and stacker/counter we purchased improved on the previous version.”
In the production system, the slices of meat interleaved with sanitary paper go by conveyor to a stacker to get counted and then packaged.
According to Jones, the interleaver designs exceeded traditional standards. Standoff mounted components helped to prevent the trapping of product scrap. Ground, polished welded construction also eliminated recessed bolt heads and other bacteria harborage points.
Jones says that some important sanitary design and production improvements involved enhancements to the stacker as well.
“PacPro even changed the design of the stacker so it is quicker to disassemble; now we can clean it thoroughly without having to completely disassemble it,” says Jones. “They also designed its fully washdown resistant servo motor to eliminate the need for a large separate enclosure and changed its guarding to make it impossible to inadvertently get a hand into the point of operation.”
The redesign also increased a productivity speed feature.
“They redesigned it so it doesn’t have to turn 90 degrees before stacking, which translates into about 10 to 15 percent faster stacking speed,” Jones said.
According to Jones, sales are good for the retail sub kits, and the company’s hygienic and efficient, high-volume production system plays an essential role in this success.
Implementing best practices in hygiene
When Berks Packing Co., a family-owned, Reading, Pennsylvania-based meat processor, recently added a dedicated deli meat slicing and packaging room to its facility, the goal was to offer customers the highest standards in terms of food safety.
“To ensure that we are supplying consumers with the safest product, we built a separate room that is independent of our raw material processing and cooking process,” says John Buckley, Berks’ director of operations. “So, we have eliminated cross traffic in an effort to eliminate any cross contamination.”
In order to meet demanding food safety regulatory requirements for its foodservice and retail customers, the meat processor worked with PacPro to implement multiple interleavers and stacker/counters.
Buckley appreciates a number of features in the interleavers and stacker/counters that improve food safety.
For example, the equipment utilizes sealed stainless steel bearings in all food-contact areas to prevent product contamination and offers optional antibacterial belting. Trays also keep product scraps out of the paper path and paper tails off the floor to prevent material contamination.
In addition, all control cabinets and enclosures have sheet metal breaks that eliminate the possibility of having potentially unsanitary standing water on flat surfaces.
“We are always looking to enhance sanitary handling, product presentation, output and unit cost, as well as ease of maintenance,” says Buckley. “That’s why we rely on reliable industry partners that help us implement the industry’s best practices.”