21st-Century Sausages
By Sam Gazdziak, Senior Editor
The age-old tradition of sausage manufacturing is benefiting from new technologies.
Although ingredients may have changed over the centuries, the sausage is still a popular item for any meal. To capitalize on that popularity, sausage processing and linking equipment has continued to improve, enabling processors to get the most production possible.
“With the evolution of vacuumization in pumps, servo drives on portioning equipment, inline grinding and casing advances, the sausage industry has seen vast improvements in product integrity, particle definition, texture, and yields,” says Jarrod McCarroll, director of sales and marketing for Marlen Research Corp., Overland Park, KS.
Technology has allowed sausage processors to become much more automated and faster without a cost to quality, adds Alan Miller, president of Risco USA Corp., South Easton, MA. “This has mainly been the result of the introduction of servo drive technology,” he adds. “This has enabled much more precise control over the stuffing process.”
Dale Seifert, general manager for Mepaco, Beaver Dam, WI, also notes the importance of inline grinding systems in the improved sausage-making process. Pumping the product from the grinder into the final process, results in less handling. “The less you can handle that product, the better the quality is going to be,” he says. “The more you handle it, the more degradation you’re doing to that ground product. You want a nice solid, dense product, and you don’t want to have any holes in it. You want to have good shelf life and good color, and those things are capable of being improved with the use of inline grinding.”
Fully automated lines also have become more prevalent in the industry, notes Bernd Mense, sausage specialist for Reiser, Canton, MA. “More robotics finding their way into the sausage kitchen [automatic hanging devices, automatic mold loading, scaling and batching systems, and computer-controlled product flow] has created the appearance of islands of automation, which is finding its way into full automation and fully integrated processing systems,” he says.
“The total automation or integration from raw-material preparation to finished packaged products is happening, for food-safety, shelf-life, and product-liability reasons. With automation, clean-in-place systems have also become necessary,” he adds.
Reiser’s Vemag HP 15CK chub machine is a high-speed, high-capacity chub filler that provides perfect weights. For smaller-productivity operations, the HP10C/889 double horn is a medium-capacity filler for straight filling of a variety of casing sizes, and features dual stuffing horns for two operators.
Linking and casing changes
Sausage processing is not the only area to have undergone radical changes over the years. Changes in linking and casing technology also have changed the way sausages are produced.
“The first big change in sausage linking came when Handtmann introduced the AL Series of machines, which made it possible to link natural casing product to exact length and weight,” says Steve Tennis, president of the Buffalo Grove, IL-based company. Handtmann continues to add to the AL Series, recently introducing the AL226 machine. It has advanced the technology for high-speed linking of any type of casing, he explains.
“The second change,” Tennis continues, “has been the introduction of co-extruded casing, using collagen or alginate as the casing material. This technology allows continuous production without interruption for casing loading.”
VegiCase, of Fayetteville, AR, is one supplier that is offering new types of casings, notes Paul Reagan, member. “Liquid alginate and liquid collagen are moving into territory formerly occupied by natural and formed collagen only,” he says. “Additionally, skinless sausage now appears on shelves. Equipment to implement the changes now resides in a handful of plants in the U.S.”
VegiCase™ is an alginate-based casing system, which applies casing in a liquid form and then sets it in a second solution. It encases both ends of a sausage and is taste and texture neutral. “Advantageously, it can take both taste and color profiles in the liquid state, offering producers several options, including ‘smoked’,” Reagan says. He adds that the VegiCase system can link to most stuffers.
Innovations in sausage processing also have led to changes in more traditional sausage casings, says James Mendiola, marketing, DeWied International, San Antonio, TX. “The production of natural casings has had to change dramatically, from tightly calibrated, shorter strand casings for portion-control linking to broader calibration in long strands for automated stuffers that size, link, and hang sausages,” he says.
Plastic casings also have had to change, he notes. “Fast, automated production of deli products has caused the evolution of plastic casings to withstand the processes and meet tight packaging specifications.”
DeWied offers several ADVA plastic casings for a variety of applications, including full-service deli products and sliced and packaged self-serve deli products. The cook-in plastic casings have a high shrink force and proper meat adhesion to minimize purge and maximize yield. The company also offers a new Daisy Slice™ HUKKI casing designed to make a daisy-shaped slice for sliced deli product applications.
“As the technology of processing increases the production speeds, and more automation is intended to reduce contamination risks, the casings used must change to do the job,” Mendiola says.
New features
With all the changes in the technology, sausage processors have to be asking the right questions and looking at the right features when deciding how to produce their products.
McCarroll says that processors should pay attention to several features in processing equipment, including “the importance of vacuumization on their product for yield savings. The type of pump used will help determine the level of smear depending on vane or piston stuffing, and if inline grinding, the processor should be aware of particle definition and texture the grinder delivers.”
Marlen’s latest product, the Dynamo 500 portioner, is designed to deliver the speed and accuracy required by sausage manufacturers. “With servo drives and an effective vane design, the Dynamo 500 is fast and reliable for repeatable performance,” he says.
The choice of equipment may also be determined by the types of sausage that will be run, although many companies offer machines that will work with all ingredient and casing types.
“We have to design the equipment to work with all types of sausage product,” says Miller. “This may mean that we have a different model for natural and collagen, but the difference is to provide the ultimate performance for the customer. One model can do the work, but not as well as some with dedicated uses.
“An example of this is our new RS191 Gel system,” Miller continues. “The system was designed specifically for the production of links with a vegetable casing. It is a unique application, and although all systems use a standard Risco stuffer, the unit after the stuffer makes it complete the unique part of the process.” Using one stuffer, the machine can produce up to 500 breakfast links per minute, and the use of the gel casing reduces the cost when compared to collagen.
Large- and small-scale sausage processors both have similar concerns about product quality and safety, but may have different needs for production speed. Seifert says that equipment manufacturers are looking into increasing the output in machines when they think capacity is an issue. “In many cases, it’s the processor driving [the changes], because he needs to get more production. The name of the game in meat processing is pounds per hour. The more they can generate out of the plant, the more efficient they can become in what they’re doing.
“The smaller processors are niche-market driven, and they’re more batch-process kind of companies,” he adds. “They are looking at product quality as the number-one thing, and not necessarily the output.”
Mepaco offers a high-capacity 11-10 inline grinder for on-the-fly meat processing with improved product definition. Designed with a larger feed screw and a double-plate system, the grinder can produce up to 144,000 pounds per hour when paired with a vacuum stuffer. The company also has an inline fat analysis system that reduces lean giveaway while increasing production. The Mepaco - Enhancers PMA (Production Meat Analysis) can measure fat content continuously within one percent without requiring time-consuming manual sampling.
Risco’s Miller says that processors should always look beyond the equipment or manufacturers that they are used to or comfortable with. “It is often this tendency that leads then to buying a machine that is a good machine, but one which is also going to bring them the same problems they are also used to,” he says, explaining that operating costs and replacement part costs can add up on a machine. Another supplier may be able to offer one that does just as good a job without the added expenses. “Don’t be afraid to look in other places,” he says. “You have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.” NP
Sausage processing suppliers contributing to the article include:
• DeWied International Inc., phone (210) 661-6161, or visit www.dewied.com
• Handtmann Inc., phone (847) 808-1100, or visit www.handtmann.com
• Marlen Research Corp., phone (913) 888-3333, or visit www.marlen.com
• Mepaco, phone (920) 356-9900, or visit www.mepaco.net
• Risco USA Corp., phone (508) 230-3336, or visit www.riscousa.com
• VegiCase, phone (479) 443-0081, or visit www.vegicase.com