Make sure you have the right portioning equipment to reach full potential and meet changing customer requirements and market demands.
In the 1990s, pre-portioned and pre-packed fresh meat portions made their way into supermarkets and discount food stores on a large scale as self-service goods. Since then, portioning technology has undergone constant development. The market now offers numerous systems that use different cutting methods for portioning. What they all have in common is that they considerably simplify and speed up the production of uniform meat portions.
The global demand for self-service goods continues to grow, making it profitable even for smaller operations to invest in a scalable portioning system. However, convenience and food service producers need to clarify for themselves in advance what their customers want and which technology can meet their parameters exactly.
To help you decide, we'll show you the small but often game-changing differences between the two most common portioning systems.
At Marel, all manufacturers can find the cutting and portioning solution that fits their needs, whether for craft, mid-size or industry. But which portion cutter is the optimal solution for your individual cutting requirements?
In the following sections, we compare the intelligent, laser-based portioning technology of the I-Cut series with the V-Cut technology of volumetric cutting.
Intelligent portion cutters
At Marel you can choose between the I-Cut portion cutters based on laser technology and the volumetric portion cutters of the V-Cut series. We also call the I-Cut series 'intelligent' portion cutters because each piece is first scanned via laser vision. The Marel software, i.e. the 'brain' of the machine, then precisely calculates where the knife should start cutting in order to achieve the desired portion weights, portion thicknesses and yields. Thanks to its high cutting speed, this technology is particularly suitable for large quantities and high throughputs.
Volumetric portion cutters
In volumetric portioning of the V-Cut technology, the raw material is placed in a cutting chamber and pressed into a portion mold for cutting. The specific product weight is used to define the required portion volume so that uniformly shaped slices of the same weight can be produced.
Start with three basic W-questions: Which clientele? What quantities? Which products?
First of all, you need to consider in principle what is to be portioned and what your clientele wants. The first selection criteria are therefore: What quantities are to be portioned? Are there seasonal trends? Which products come into question? What cutting speed does the portion cutter need to offer to handle your portioning volume? And do you want to cut many different products on the same machine, or are they all similar cuts?
The next step is about the desired end-product. The following guide will help you define the portioning technique that fits your specifications:
- End-product shape
- End-product presentation
- Cutting patterns
- Raw material sizes
- Raw material preparation
1) End-product shape
What is your customer asking for? Do they need natural looking portions or uniform portions? Basically, both systems (vision based and volumetric) can cut fixed weight portions.
In the I-Cut's vision-based way of measuring and cutting, the product will not be formed before or during slicing. This portioning method results in fixed weight portions with variations in thickness and width, which is due to the individual anatomies of each primal. They maintain their original, naturally looking shape.
The volumetric system on the other hand forms the meat to the shape determined by the mold set. This results in fixed weight portions all having a uniform shape and the same thickness.
2) End-product presentation
If the customer asks for portions coming out as a meat loaf to be easily packed into boxes or transported to the packaging machine, or if a singulated portion presentation is required, the I-Cut with singulator is the right choice.
If the customer asks for a product presentation in a fixed weight batch, fanned/shingled or stacked styling, the V-Cut can easily fulfill these requirements. This way of pre-styled end-product outfeed allows automatic packaging as needed for fully automated retail lines.
3) Cutting patterns and portion thickness
If very thick portions are requested, such as roast cuts thicker than 70mm, or if more than two different types of end-products are to be produced out of one primal, then the I-Cut will provide the best result in weight accuracy and yield.
The V-Cuts, on the other hand, can cut up to two different portion weights out of one primal. If very thin portions are requested, the V-Cut would be the best option as it can cut down to 2 mm slice thickness, whereas the minimum cutting thickness of the standard version of the I-Cut 130 is approximately 8 mm.
4) Raw material
Processors of beef products have an especially high need to handle many different raw material sizes, and the ideal portion cutter should be able to cover most if not all of them.
On a volumetric portion cutter, the mold size can be considered the limiting factor. A certain raw material variation can be handled by one and the same mold. However, if a bigger variation is requested, a second mold size is necessary.
The laser-vision based I-Cut principle of portion cutting can handle both small and very big primals without changing any parameters. The vision system scans the different sizes, and the computer calculates the right cutting thickness to achieve the target weight.
5) Raw material preparation
If we talk about raw material preparation, we mainly think about crust freezing. Crust freezing means an additional step in the process and is not carried out gladly as the freezing technology is expensive and requires high energy. On the other hand, it provides an important advantage: Stability of the primal during the cutting process.
Product stability helps operators when manual handling of the portions is necessary as they are easier to take from the outlet belt, for example to load them into trays. And stability is the key factor when it comes to automating the packing process, which starts already with creating a batch in a formatted way.
This means that if the process does not request any styling of portions into batches, the I-Cut technology is preferable because crust freezing is not necessary to achieve very good results in accuracy and cutting appearance.
Natural looking portions
- Bulk output as a meat loaf or single portion output, using an additional Singulator module
- For thick roast cuts > 70 mm
- For thin portions > 8 mm
- Possibility to get different portion weights out of one primal
- Allows big variations of primal sizes
- No crust-freezing necessary
- Uniform portion shape
- Formatted portion output as single portions, stacked or shingled batches
- Very thin portions > 2 mm
- Two portion weights out of one primal
- Can process varying primal sizes, but similar dimensions allow a better production flow
- Crust-freezing is helpful for accurate portion weights, pre-formatted output and automatic tray loading.