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How to Solve Common Yield Issues in Protein Processing
Protein processors deal with a number of issues that risk dragging down yield. Valuable product weight can drip to the factory floor, evaporate to the ceiling, or stick to a conveyor belt.

These sorts of chronic yield issues can result in:

  • Lost output, leading directly to reduced revenue.
  • Less consistent quality and heightened scrap/rework rates.
  • Higher weight ingredients at input to ensure an adequate final weight after loss due to drippage, etc., driving up input costs.

Fortunately, protein processors have some valuable options for identifying and solving the root causes of a number of common yield problems.

Root Causes of Yield Issues for Protein Processors

One Messer team member who works with protein processors remarks that “the first thing I look for when evaluating yield is liquid on the floor—or, if it’s a cooking plant, steam escaping to the ceiling.” We examine common causes of yield problems below.

What are common reasons for percent yield loss in protein processing?

1. Inefficient Raw Ingredient Processing: any yield loss during raw ingredient processing represents lost product and requires larger inputs to be used to maintain final product weight.

2. Unquenched Cooked Meats or Meat Alternatives: after cooking, any time when a protein product remains hot is time that risks moisture loss via steam or drip loss, reducing yield.

3. Lost Ingredients for Prepared Products: meat or alternative meat toppings can be shaken loose from prepared foods during processing or packaging.

4. Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) Foods: if IQF yield is lost (for example, from product sticking together or to the conveyor belt) processors must use extra product to create a buffer margin against underweight or overweight packages.

5. Protein Products Sticking to Conveyor Belts: products like meat patties can easily stick to conveyor belts, reducing yield while potentially creating misshapen products.

How to Solve Common Yield Issues in Protein Processing

Strategies and Procedures to Identify Protein Yield Problems

Identifying a yield problem is always the first step to solving it. Beyond simply looking for drippage or evaporation, this article from Food Engineering recommends a number of other options to help proactively detect yield problems.

1. SPC (Statistical Process Control) can be used to identify yield issues in blending and batching processes, with a reported ROI ranging from 20 to 30 percent.

2. Mass-balance reporting systems can help track and identify product loss across the entire production line.

3. Track and analyze key metrics (e.g. protein content, weight fluctuation, water content) throughout processing. In-process adjustments can help account for variation in raw materials.

Evaluate control system software to find an approach that can protect quality without sacrificing speed.

How can protein processors solve common yield issues?

Once a problem is identified, how can protein processors go about solving the underlying issue? Improvements can be pursued along two related paths.

First, process improvements can help ensure that best practices are followed. This category of improvement is all about improving yields for the existing technological process. This article from Food Manufacturing provides some great suggestions for tighter quality control, preventive maintenance, improved inventory tracking, and more.

Second, protein processors can invest in new technical capabilities that help solve the root causes behind yield issues. For example, Messer’s experience implementing cryogenics for protein processing has demonstrated a variety of valuable use cases.

How Cryogenics Help Protein Processors Improve Yield

In each of the applications outlined below, cryogenic chilling and freezing solutions can improve product yield, while offering other benefits. Cryogenic food processing technologies can be cost-effective, are highly scalable, and can help improve yields for both large and small processing facilities.

Solutions like cryo-assisted impingement and tunnel freezers overcome key limitations of traditional mechanical freezing techniques. If past experiences with mechanical freezing have proven unsatisfactory, now is still a great time to explore the capabilities of the latest cryogenic protein processing solutions.

Example Protein Yield-Enhancing Applications for Messer Cryogenics

  • Cryogenic crust freezers help quickly quench protein products after cooking. Rapid quenching increases moisture retention, reduces frost buildup in mechanical freezers, limits conveyor belt-sticking, and stabilizes the product to reduce misshapen product rates.

  • Crust Chilling a product can also increase yield by stabilizing it post-marination or injection. This crust forms a boundary layer in order to avoid yield loss for products that are pressed for a consistent thickness or pushed through knives or water jets for portioning.

  • Chilling with bottom-injection nitrogen or CO2 system can ensure ingredients consistently reach optimal temperatures during blending operations, enabling a consistently better-formed product. Precise chilling the product in the blender reduces rework, limits loss through sticking to the forming machine, and ultimately enhances yield. Improved forming operations can reduce rework and lost product while improving quality.

  • Cryogenic freezers such as Messer’s Cross Flow Tunnel, Modular Tunnel, and Immersion systems can quench a cooked product much more quickly than a traditional mechanical cooling system, delivering better overall results in many contexts. Fast freezing helps retain moisture by quenching the product and reducing steam and drip loss. Messer cryogenic systems can perform a full freeze or be installed prior to a current mechanical system to enhance its operation
  • Cryo-assisted quenching and freezing can not only improve yield but increase overall throughput. In mechanical freezers, moisture on refrigeration coils often requires production to be slowed (or freezer temperatures to be raised) in order to accommodate coil defrosting. In some cases, defrosting represents 1-2 hours per day of lost production. Cryogenic pre-treatment can reduce the need for coil defrosting.

  • IQF quick-crusting cryogenic freezers improve the overall precision of IQF processing by reducing product marriages and clumping. Higher quality IQF product processing allows for minimal weight buffers in final packaging, improving yield while ensuring a reliable end product. Precise IQF freezing also helps reduce costly rework or scrappage further down the line.

Learn More

If you’re interested in a more detailed discussion about improving your protein processing capabilities using cryogenics, we encourage you to contact the Messer team for advice and/or a complimentary production process assessment. We have decades of industry-specific experience, and assessment of your facility and processes is a great way to start down the path to improving product yield.

Get this Guide as a PDF: How to Solve Common Yield Issues in Protein Processing

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