An article in Just Food reported on how consumers previously spent about 51% of their food and drink dollars outside the home, but starting after the pandemic hit, it has increased and now about 70% is spent on cooking and eating at home. This has had enormous impact on the meat industry.
The Food Industry Association (FMI) recently took a look at what was happening in the meat industry during the pandemic from the shopper’s perspective. And their report shows that the meat industry has been in a whirlwind.
First, meat sales – including beef, chicken, pork, fresh, frozen, or processed — almost doubled as people stockpiled and cooked more at home. This resulted in somewhat of a meat shortage causing consumers to go outside their normal buying preferences and try different types of meat. So meat suppliers had to scramble to keep up with demand and ensure their facilities could handle the variety of offerings.
Fortunately, it looks like the meat industry has kept up and supplies now seem to have leveled. One somewhat surprising result noted in the report is that “Many consumers say the meat department has done a good job keeping product in supply during the pandemic, ensuring employee safety and maintaining food safety.”
With the turmoil of the availability of meats and the industry having to adapt to supplying more variety to keep up with demand, not to mention possible temporary plant shutdowns or limited processing, it is reassuring to know that consumer safety was still at the forefront.
Most meat suppliers utilize food weighing and inspection equipment, including food metal detectors and food X-ray inspection technology, as part of the food safety quality programs. However, as we have written about in the past, meat brings several challenges when it comes to ensuring it doesn’t contain metal contaminants (like worn machinery parts or broken off cutting instruments) because of something called ‘product effect.”
Product effect involves the conductive properties of the food that can mimic a foreign object, and cause the detector to incorrectly signal a physical contaminant. So the machine operator is forced to compromise the sensitivity of the detector to avoid false rejections. Less sensitive settings could mean more difficulty detecting pesky metal contaminants.
With fluctuating meat offerings, the processor faces a product that is moist and bloody, with varying temperature, salt content and product sizes — all of which cause product effect to vary, as well. This makes consistent foreign object detection difficult, and increases the potential for costly scrap or rework, or missed contaminants.
One way to alleviate these issues is to use the latest multiscan metal detection technology. With multiscan technology, the operator picks a set of up to five frequencies from 50 kHz to 1000 kHz and the equipment scans through each frequency at a very rapid rate, effectively acting like five metal detectors in one. As a result, the detectors can run a frequency close to ideal for most any type of metal encountered. The result is that the probability of detection increases significantly and escapes essentially disappear. Sensitivity is optimized because the optimal frequency is running for each type of metal of concern.
With this newest technology, the only metal a consumer should have to worry about is the grill and if it’s hot enough.
If you want to learn more about metal detection in the meat industry, watch the 30-minute on-demand webinar: Overcoming the Challenges of Foreign Object Detection in Meat Processing