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Slaughter and fabrication evaluator monitoring the line for spec compliance.

Only the pure in heart can make good soup. -Ludwig van Beethoven



During the slaughter stage, each carcass is divided in half, making a left side and a right side. This is done with a large saw, which needs to be lined up very precisely so that both sides of the carcass mirror each other.

The following day, they are moved to the cutting floor where the two sides are cut into 4 main sections: the shoulder, the belly, the loin, and the ham. These are each sent to a different area, to be processed into further cuts.

A Truebridge evaluator measuring fat cover with a ruler.   A Truebridge evaluator checking a binder filled with specification sheets.
Measuring specification compliance for fat cover.   Referencing spec sheets for customer instructions.
Two Truebridge employees checking the bagging on the fabrication line.   A Truebridge employee checking a pallet full of boxed product.
Ensuring product is well positioned in the right bag.   Checking to make sure product is correctly boxed and labeled.

Product Specs

Every plant has a set of instructions called product specifications, ("specs") which state exactly how each cut of meat is to be made and packaged. At large commercial plants the number of head slaughtered and processed each day make it nearly impossible for the plant to do more than basic, standardized cuts. Truebridge pork is fabricated at a small plant that is set up for custom fabrication, which means that Truebridge can create specs for individual customers, so that each piece of pork they buy best suits their needs. This is particularly valuable to chefs who don't have the time, space, or equipment to finish prepping the meat on their own.

However, because this plant produces the pork for other customers as well as Truebridge, it can be a challenge for the craftsman to keep numerous sets of customer specs straight. The Truebridge fabrication team works hard to establish spec worksheets that are easy for the processing plant staff to understand and reference. Then, because they are present at every fabrication, they are able to work closely with the processing staff to make sure the cuts are executed right.

Bagging & Boxes

After all the meat has been cut, the final step is to get it ready to be shipped out.

If the pork is going to be used in large volumes and relatively soon (within 3-5 days) the pieces can be placed in receptacles called "combos," which hold approximately 2,000 pounds. They are lined with plastic to protect the meat from contamination, but they do not need to be vacuum sealed. This is usually how bellies, that will be further processed into bacon, are shipped.

Product that is not going to be used or frozen within 3-5 days needs to be vacuum sealed at the plant. Removing oxygen is important to extending the shelf life of the product because the bacteria that would breaks down muscle fibers needs oxygen to work quickly. Removing all the oxygen and keeping the product very cold forces the bacteria to work much slower, increasing shelf life to 4-5 times what it would be if the meat were only put in a refrigerator.

The plastic vacuum bags that are used come in a variety of sizes and thickness. For example, if the product has bones that can easily puncture plastic (like back ribs), a tougher more durable bag is used. The key to getting a good air seal is have the right bag for the right product and carefully orienting it, so there isn't any meat or fat caught in the seal.

Once the product is vacuum sealed it is placed in boxes. The boxes need to be big enough to encompass the dimensions and quantity of product pieces. If they aren't quite big enough, the meat gets "squished" and its juices leak out. Putting pressure on items like back ribs can also force the bones to pierce through the bags, permitting oxygen access and reducing shelf life.

This is another place where the Truebridge fabrication team can be an extra set of eyes, helping the plant employees to monitor the sealing process and match boxes to product. If a spec change is needed to address a tricky packaging issue, Truebridge can help customer and plant reach a consensus.

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