Product overview | 2020-04-07 | MEAT + POULTRY
Ground beef remains a staple in the United States due to its availability, variety, and ease of preparation. Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) consumers vote for their favorite items every day with their purchases, and there’s no doubt the burgers win every time. Whether on foodservice menus or in the case of retail, ground beef is the undisputed champion in beef product volume.
“Technomic publishes its hamburger report every year, and the one that came out last year said 55% of consumers in the United States eat a burger at home or at the restaurant service at least once a week,” said Misty High, president of Cargill. Proteins, Restoration. “So to me that tells you that burgers continue to be in fashion and continue to be important to consumers if the majority of us eat them at least once a week.”
High worked with Cargill Protein for 15 years, in positions that included marketing, sales, foodservice and retail, as well as running Cargill’s ground beef plant in Fresno, Calif., Before moving to move to their current position.
With the volume of ground beef produced for U.S. consumers, processors must present product in a way that checks the boxes that consumers and customers demand of retailers and suppliers. What individual customers or consumers want in a package of ground beef can vary from person to person and company to company, but there are certain attributes High knows all customers are about. ‘OK.
Basic packaging goals
Retailers generate less waste and distribute products for longer. This therefore increases the bottom line and ensures optimization of revenue potential and consumer satisfaction. Everyone in the supply chain and consumer environments benefits when packaging provides these attributes.
âThe trend has been anything that will help with shelf life,â High said. âSo increase and maintain the quality and increase that shelf life. “
Another aspect that packaging retailers, food service providers and consumers can all agree on is to make sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging a priority, not only for ground beef, but for all consumables and packaged products.
âThere’s also waste reduction,â High said. âWhether it’s cutting a corner of a box or reducing the amount of plastic, it’s a constant. I would say the workflow we have with most of our clients eliminates any unnecessary waste around packaging improves the business.
The Cargill Grind plant in Fort Worth, Texas is one of Cargill Protein Groups’ largest ground beef plants. It produces both fresh and frozen ground beef and has received numerous industry accolades for its throughput and customer service. With such a high volume and a large, dedicated customer base, the Fort Worth Shredder takes packaging as seriously as any other process.
One to 10 pound retail chubs account for about a third of the facility’s activity. Once the tamper fills the vinyl with beef, a fully programmable JLS Osprey robot packs the boxes based on size and pattern. SKUs are programmed and can be changed to suit orders with the push of a button. Operators can change the tooling at arm’s length, the gripper that collects the chubs to load them into crates, in about two minutes.
Currently, hourly workers palletize the chub by hand before it is sent to cold storage or shipped, but the facility has an automation plan in place for the next fiscal year.
âWe have commitments in our investment plan to solve more ergonomic issues where we can implement robotic automation,â said Allen Boelter, resort manager, Fort Worth, Cargill Protein Group. âSpecifically, one would be to add another big robot to help with the packing area for fresh chub. So this will help eliminate some arduous box stacking roles.
The FSQR (Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory) test kitchen takes samples daily from the two lines of factory-fresh retail ground beef in different weights and sizes to test shelf life. The chubs are rotated throughout a cycle at the same temperature as a refrigerated retail cash register. Staff manage and record performance while giving real-time feedback to plant employees involved in packaging. The records provide data not only for formulation and manufacture, but also for packaging, in this case chub vinyl, performance.
The other two-thirds of the Fort Worth crushing plant’s output, and most of its business and margin, is in the form of frozen patties for QSR customers, with a negligible fraction of fresh patties sold. by retail.
A former Tomahawk Manufacturing man makes the patties from a new batch formulation and they are then sent through a freezer tunnel to a packing station where they are bagged and packaged by hand. Manual wrapping of patties is the most demanding job at the plant, said Flavio Castaneda, production manager, Cargill Value Added Meats, Foodservice. At the Fort Worth plant, new hires go through a full shift wrapping patties over a four-week period to get used to the heavy work.
“We tell new hires to let us know if they are in pain,” Castaneda said. “Once they’re on a full shift, we rotate them throughout the day changing them from left side to right side every hour.”
Part of the packaging process includes taking samples from newly frozen piles waiting to be wrapped and wrapped and checked against customer specifications.
Once packaged, but unsealed, a conveyor moves the frozen patties to stations where the product is manually weighed and adjusted by removing or adding a patty to achieve the customer’s preferred weight. At this point in the process, a record of the factory gift is saved for future reference and to ensure continuous improvement and packaging consistency.
Castaneda said that in the spring or early summer, the manual weighing and labeling process for frozen patty packages will be another part of the process of transitioning to automation. Once automated, employees currently in these roles will not be laid off, but moved to a new position and trained, if necessary.
All frozen pancake conveyors lead to the robot room for palletizing. One of the big three robots picks up crates of frozen patties from the conveyor and starts making pallets according to the customer’s order. Once built, the pallets are moved to a cold store for the period designated by the customer, completing the packaging process and starting the shipping process.