The Least-Interesting , But Perhaps One Of The Most-Important Meat Processing Topics

  • Regular Contributors

    I am talking about cleaning and sanitation. (Yawn). Before you fall asleep or move on, here is why I am kind of OCD about cleaning. I spent a few years working Summers in the family sausage business. Cleaning and sanitation is HUGE, and literally can mean the difference between staying open or being shut down at an inspected commercial processing plant.

    For most home processors, keeping our equipment and work space clean is about improving flavor, quality, and shelf life of the products you make. It also is about food safety, and making products that don’t have dangerous food-borne pathogens that could make you or others sick. Just because you cooked a product up to 160 degrees, does not mean it can’t make someone sick. Last of all, clean and well maintained equipment just works better.

    When you think about cleaning work surfaces, start to think about anything that could directly or indirectly make contact with the meat. That includes your hands, by the way.

    Anyone who has made sausage has probably observed how dried emulsified meat is like glue and is a real pain to get off of equipment. If you are working alone, do yourself a favor and as soon as you are finished with a piece of equipment, or a processing tub, rinse off the big chunks with the hottest water you have. Hot water is one of the best things I have found that can melt the fat and loosen the protein from surfaces. If the water is too hot for your hands, wear disposable rubber gloves.

    Once you have the chunks off, you can go back later when you are all finished and scrub the rest off with a soap, hot water, and minimal effort to finish the clean up. Once the heavy gunk has dried on, it is much more difficult to remove.

    Another thing that simplifies clean up is to use a plastic scraper to remove all the excess meat off of equipment before wash down. This does a couple of things: It reduces the amount of cleaners required and keeps the meat out of your sink or wash basin. In general, meat and fat in your drains is going to lead to problems sooner or later

    If you are working with helpers, it can greatly simplify cleaning if someone can start washing down a piece of equipment as soon as you are done using it for the day. This allows the clean up to start before any meat residue begins to dry and reduces the time and effort involved. Depending on your processing area, you probably can use the space created by cleaning up and putting away dirty equipment sooner rather than later.
    My favorite cleaner is a strong alkaline cleaner called Greased Lightening and it cuts fat and even smoke house/grill residue better than most other normal house-hold cleaners.
    After you get everything cleaned up and dried, figure out a storage system that keeps it clean till the next time you use it. Equipment stored out in the open on the shelf in the garage or basement is going to accumulate dirt and grunge. Store your clean equipment in a tote with a lid or cover it with plastic film till you are ready to use it again.

    Kind of just scratching the surface here. There have been whole books written on the topic of cleaning and sanitation. Would be interested to hear some of your own cleaning tricks.

    Photo of my small removable equipment parts after wash down. The big stationary items have to be washed down on the carts and tables they operate on.

  • Team Blue

    Another area is cross contamination while processing. I use throwaway gloves. Probably go thru 10 pair during the operation

  • Team Orange Power User Masterbuilt

    Great words here. I’m kind of [censored] about this myself. It’s important!!! Thanks for sharing.

  • Regular Contributors

    JoeB said in The Least-Interesting , But Perhaps One Of The Most-Important Meat Processing Topics:

    Another area is cross contamination while processing. I use throwaway gloves. Probably go thru 10 pair during the operation
    Disposable gloves are great and definitely keep things cleaner while processing. Gloves are the alternative to frequent hand washing. Either is almost a necessity to avoid getting meat on everything you touch and is certainly easier than washing down every equipment switch, refrigerator door handle, and knife handle you touch during the course of a normal processing session.

  • Team Blue

    Paul, you did a great job of identifying every critical point. Should be posted as the go-to guide for safe meat processing. One quick point: if I’m grinding beef and pork for different batters. I grind beef 1st. A little beef in the pork ok, but pork in the beef not good. It’s the pasteurization temps.

  • Team Blue

    processhead this is no doubt one of the most important and legit posts on this forum…hands down

  • Regular Contributors

    I was thinking about this yesterday while cleaning the equipment in the picture above. One of the challenges many home processer face is just having enough work space to clean big items. I found a 2-tub sink with drain boards several years ago which helps a lot, but trying was clean can be tough without the space to do it properly.

    I also rigged up a short length of hose to the sink faucet so I can direct hot water to places that need rinsing or need a little pressure to flush debris off of equipment. Having that extra couple of feet of hose on the hot water line makes a huge difference during clean up.

    Many of you have probably already figured out that cleaning processing equipment requires some specialized tools like brushes to clean out grinder heads and plates, and stuffer funnels. I have accumulated most of the specialized brushes I need to get into the little cracks and crevices to get them cleaned correctly.

    If you are doing your wash down outdoors, a pressure washer is a great tool for getting things cleaned quickly, but it needs to be connected to hot water to really remove fat residue properly. For many of us, the local climate prevents us from cleaning outdoors for at least part of the year

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