Best Bacon System on Earth
By Eben van Tonder
8 January 2018
Many years ago I started working with transglutaminase. I wrote the first version of my article, Restructuring of whole muscle meat with Microbial Transglutaminase – a holistic and collaborative approach on 30 May 2013. Then it was a relatively newly discovered enzyme which made the restructuring of meat possible using a natural process. I teamed up with a Chinese producer and experimented extensively over the years. Out of this work grew the equipment required to create bacon in a new way. Myself and colleagues embarked on designing the best bacon system on earth. Over the years I’ve kept building on the system. I often wondered if the claim that it is “the best bacon system on earth” is warranted. After working in this for almost 10 years now I can confidently say that it is!
There are other’s who use different features of what we designed, but nowhere has it been brought together in this one holistically conceptualized way! Besides this, there are features of my system that is not being used in any other system on earth which makes it completely unique.
The following are features of the system.
- It takes the full processing flow into account from injecting to slicing, packing and pasteurization and everything in between;
- It is easy to use;
- The grids are very robust;
- Manpower are restricted to an absolute minimum;
- High pressure are used in the forming stage of the bacon;
- We opted NOT to stack bellies on top of each other – it does not work well;
- It is the most effective system on the market;
- Trolleys have been eliminated and yet, if a producer is locked into a batch processing system for drying/ smoking/ chilling and freezing, the system is still fully compatible with it;
- Brine is currently being re-designed. We are working on a project to removed nitrites, MSG and artificial chemicals from the brine completely to enable a producer to claim “nitrite free” or “reduced nitrite” bacon”;
- The equipment enables the producer to create its own brine of natural anti-oxidants and preservatives and find a way to boost the taste of spices without using MSG.
- Meat-on-meat injection is done in a clean and simple way which removes water injection;
- Drying, smoking, chilling and freezing is accomplished in one continues step;
- Loading and offloading into the dry/ smoke/ chill/ freeze is automated;
- Automatics loading onto the slicer;
- The bacon is pack using well tested robotics which have been used in plants for over 10 years by now;
- The last issue outstanding is pasteurization. I have already done extensive work on it and know the direction where the answer lays. The perfect pasteurization systems I want have already been developed by others.
Besides the bacon system, a rib project has been conceptualized that enables riblets to be used to produce reconstructed ribs with the same basic equipment with only different baskets.
- Nitrite free bacon is being developed;
- The superior quality of meat-on-meat injected bacon.
B. The Grid System
- Automatic loading and unloading after pressing and after the dry/ smoke/ chill/ freeze cycle;
- Slicing yields of 98%;
- Consistent production yields;
- Bacon is perfectly consistent in shape;
- Perfect control over injection yields;
- Quality normally only achieved for dry cured bacons at a price, lower than water injected products.
C. Dry/ Smoke/ Chill/ Freeze Cycle
- One continues system with no handling;
- Dramatically reduced staff;
- Automated loading and unloading;
- Automated crate washing and quick cycle time for grids;
- No need for crate storage and accompanying freezer burn on bacon logs;
- Compared with a batch system, this will yield at least 2 or 3 extra batches per day.
- Option to send logs to slicer or to packing station for packing, boxing and storage for future slicing or for sales;
- A smoking system with airflow that is both horizontal and vertical.
D. Automated Slicing and Pick and Place Robotics for Loading Roll-Stock Machines
- Dramatically reduces staff;
- No handling by humans results in dramatically improved micro;
- Constant pack rate and due to the speed of the overall system that can not be matched by humans, it delivers far greater output than a manual system.
In Africa where refrigerated distribution is still a challenge, pasteurization is essential due to the guaranteed buy-back requirements (sale-or-return) of all major African retailers.
Lets drill down into the different components.
1. Meat on Meat
The meat and meat injection removes the need for added water. In this clip I refer to Pork MDM but the economies works just as well for pork trim.
2. Remove Nitrites, MSG and other artificial chemicals while enhancing the flavour
Nitrite free bacon was never a big issue in SA. Nobody in the world had a workable alternative in any event. Spice companies produce plant extracts filled with nitrites and sell it to bacon producers who then claim nitrite-free bacon since they do not have to declare the nitrites in the plant extracts. It is nothing but smoking-mirrors! Dishonest marketing!
I was thrilled to see an article finally reporting on the first international move against this dishonest practice. Written by Dan Flynn, CSPI/CR request to prohibit nitrate statements put on track for approval appeared on 17 December 2020. The first step has been taken to put an end to this practice, but it will remove most nitrite-free bacon from the world’s shelves.
In terms of nitrite injected bacon, very effective control measures have been put in place around the world to regulate both the nitrite and residue nitrite levels and cured products are safe to consume. Here is an chapter I did on the subject in my book on bacon, Bacon & the Art of Living, on the subject entitled, Regulations of Nitrate and Nitrite post-1920’s: the problem of residual nitrite. I address the fact that nitrates are still allowed in quick-cured bacon in South Africa, but in doing this, I also address the health concerns associated with nitrates and nitrites which is at the heart of both issues.
Still, it is understandable that in a world where Covid vaccination is questioned, the nitrite-free or reduced nitrite curing is a vocal and widespread consumer demand. As such, industry must deliver. After working on it for almost 15 years, I realized that there are ways to achieve this. The equipment which is part of this bacon line will make this possible.
B. Basket System
Bacon is shaped into a regular form using a system of grids and presses. Two other basket systems are available in the world, besides the one we developed. I highlight the unique features that set this system apart from any other.
1. Superior Engineering
The complete system is produced in South Africa at a price that is impossible to match. At least two major international bacon producers converted their entire system to the one we developed.
3. Operator Safety and Food Safety Features
The system was designed with European safety and food safety features in mind.
4. Two sizes:
Two baskets are available. One is 480mm long for Treif-type slicers and the other, 900mm long for high-speed slicers. The width is according to client requirements but normally around 160 to 200mm wide. The baskets are around 110mm high.
5. Baking Paper
When the bacon is packed, baking paper is wrapped around it. We opted NOT to sue the new film which is available. After intensive tests, we chose instead to stay with a specialized, perforated baking paper.
The video below shows the application of the baking paper, but still in an old style-grid system we initially developed.
6. Batching system
A German Master Butcher developed a batching system that works hand-in-glove with the total bacon production system. We will assist you, if required, to implement this same system.
7. Hydraulic Press
After extensive testing, we designed a hydraulic press to deliver the pressure required to remove air from the meat system and greatly enhance the binding and restructuring of the meat. It also ensures consistency in the final bacon shape.
8. Full Automation
The entire system is designed with fully automated loading and offloading in mind. These features are currently being designed. We are working with a leading smokehouse designer to fit our system with a continuous drying/ smoking/ cooling/ freezing system. This will give the producer unrivalled cost, speed and consistency advantages.
9. All Bacon Cuts
The system is ideal for processing belly, loin, leg, shoulder, catering bacon.
C. Dry/ Smoke/ Chill/ Freeze Cycle
After searching for the optimal smoking solutions, I discovered the solutions offered by Kerres. They have a hybrid system with horizontal as well as vertical airflow.
D. Automated Slicing and Pick and Place Robotics for Loading Roll-Stock Machines
These systems have been in the market for some time. We integrate these into our complete system.
In countries outside of Africa where chilled distribution is not a problem or in countries like Australia where bacon is sold as a cooked product, this step is not necessary. In Africa it is, however, absolutely essential. Various systems are available, the biggest in South Africa being HPP (pressure) and PPP (heat). None of these systems are unfortunately suitable for bacon, nor is ultra violet light. This is the last part of the complete system to receive attention. I have been following the literature carefully as the optimal system is being developed. As soon as this is commercially available, it will be reported by me.
In the end, the goal is to use the best bacon system on earth to produce the best bacon on earth! The system components all blend in like a properly formulated fine emulsion sausage! Below are some examples of the quality of bacon that will be produced with this system. Obviously there is no need to invest in the complete system since it is modular but the complete system will be yield the optimal results!
All above bacon produced in grids with TG. ** Curtesy of Frank Wörtz (different mechanism of grids used but I show this to feature the quality achieved with grids)
Using the same thinking as applied to bacon and the same equipment, only slightly modifies together with our Ligard range of TG, we were able to produce reformed ribs from imported riblets.
- Curing Brine and Microbial Transglutaminase (MTG) – designing the optimal blend
- Factors Affecting Colour Development and Binding in a Restructuring System Based on Transglutaminase
- Meat-on-Meat Injection for Bacon and Ham Production: Injection for Profit and Taste
- Microbial Transglutaminase System: Applications and Clever Ideas
- Reconstructed Ribs
- Restructuring of whole muscle meat with Microbial Transglutaminase – a holistic and collaborative approach.
- TG Options and Processes
- The Rib Project
Mail me for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on + 27 71 545 3029.
Important Note on Patents Protection:
Where there are different manufacturers of the baskets who may claim to have patented certain features of the general system, I invite them to inform me of such a claim if they believe I am infringing on their rights and point out the specific unique features of their design that they claim. I will ask the top international patent firm in South Africa to investigate the validity of the claims and if the features they claim can be patented at all. If there are legitimate patent objections, the design will either be altered to achieve the same results without compromising the functional requirements of the system or the person with such legitimate and tested claim will be asked to produce the baskets. The communication must be more than just the general patent claim. I am aware of producers who claim patent protection on aspects of design that have been used in the meat industry for many years and can not be claimed to be novel or belonging to any one person any longer.