Butterball talks about freezing/chilling needs

by Bryan Salvage
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Whenever a top executive from Butterball LLC talks about what’s important to his or her company regarding acquiring chilling and freezing systems, technology providers listen — and very closely. After all, Kings Mountain, NC-based Butterball, a Seaboard Corp. business, is the largest vertically integrated turkey producer in the United States, accounting for 20 percent of total turkey production in this country.

It produces about 1.2 billion lbs. of chilled/frozen product per year. While its 675,000-sq. ft.-plant in Mt. Olive, NC, is the world’s largest turkey plant, Butterball also operates plants in Carthage, Mo., as well as in Huntsville, Jonesboro and Ozark, Ark.

Features in demand for its chilling/freezing technology are many. “For us, the first essential feature for chilling/freezing equipment and technology is the food safety and sanitary design,” says Irving Young, Butterball’s director of food safety/quality assurance. “Butterball looks for equipment and technology that has sanitary operational performance and has a hygienic design that makes it easy to clean and maintain sanitary conditions.”

Company managers also look for equipment/technology that’s designed to be safe for Butterball associates to use. “We like to see things like air monitoring with alarms and guards with interlocks to prevent accidental injury of employees who are operating, cleaning or working around the equipment,” Young says. “It’s a plus when there’s an opportunity to receive onsite training and clear directions and procedures for operations, maintenance and sanitation cleaning.”

Last but not least, another essential feature Butterball focuses on is the equipment’s performance and efficiency. The company considers the manufacturer’s performance guarantee — the description, operation specifications and capacities. Company executives also look at the operational parameters of equipment, including the minimum, maximum, variation and heat removal (BTU/lb.); energy use to determine the feasibility and costs to operate the technology; and the future abilities for upgrades and increased capacities.

Meanwhile, technology providers are working hard to meet many chilling/freezing challenges and opportunities. Quick delivery and installation with low capital expense are the main drivers of this technology, one technology supplier says. Production demand for lines running at maximum speeds is a major challenge. Three major features meat and poultry processors need from their freezing/chilling operations are higher yields, higher productivity and reduced operating costs, states another technology provider. Many processors are also demanding more hygienic upgrades to their chilling/freezing technologies.

Bottom line: Effective, efficient chilling and freezing are critical processes essential to maintaining food-safety and quality. As a result, more forward-thinking meat and poultry processors are now taking a longer-term view when committing funding for investments in adding or replacing chilling and freezing technology.

For more information on new chilling/freezing equipment and trends driving this technology, read the exclusive report on chilling/freezing in the December issue of Meat&Poultry magazine.

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