Equipment Choices for Butcher shop

Sugar Mountain Farm Butcher Shop on Snow

We are in the final stages of finishing off the interior of our very, very small scale on-farm butcher shop. I’m at the point where I must make final equipment choices and hoped some of you might be able to give feedback on equipment if you’ve used these or similar equipment.

We’ll start with Vermont state inspection and then move to USDA inspection. This is how both the feds and state recommend proceeding. We’ve been working with both agencies throughout the design, permitting and construction process. On January 22nd the heat of the Vermont meat inspection came out to our farm for an hour and a half – we had a great session with him going over our progress.

Initially we will open for just doing butchering, that is to say raw cutting from carcass through linked sausage. We only do pork and only from our farm. Our cutting volume will start out at just three pigs a week and then gradually increase to six pigs a week as we take over the cutting currently done for hire at the wonderful Adams Slaughter facility we work with now. We’ll continue to take animals to Adams for slaughter and carcass chilling even after we’re doing butchering while we finish off the interior of the next section. Later after we bring slaughter on-farm then we’ll increase to about ten pigs a week with seasonal surges of no more than 20 pigs a week. Thus the total volume will typically be about 2,000 lbs per week. About 30% goes to ground and sausage.

Update 20200202: After five years of using this equipment I’m pleased with all of it for the most part.

Vacuum packer bar tape needs replacing about every four months, the wires about every nine months. One segment of one LED died after six months and company wouldn’t respond about that.
Bandsaw, once I got it set right, has been on the same blade for four years. After four and a half years the on/off switch broke – small fix.
Grinder has worked flawlessly. Just keep the head cool – spray with cold water if it warms during long grinding sessions.
11 lb stainless steel sausage stuffers ($200) from Walton’s Inc which I’m pleased with other than the fact that they fail to use a brass bushing around one of the gear shafts so the gear head ($75) needs replacing about annually. Easy replace. This is part of why I have two.
Three phase converter has worked flawlessly.
Refrigeration is still just the natural high mass thermal storage that is built into the building. I have installed a active refrigeration system but never used it in the five years. The building naturally keeps at about the right temperature year round.

With this equipment I’ve done up to nine pigs a week and up to 800 lbs of sausage by myself.

Cutting will be typically done a single day each week on a non-slaughter day. Mostly we sell deboned wholesale to local stores and restaurants. We also sell a little bone-in and such as well as some direct to individuals through our
CSA, as whole pigs, half pigs and boxes.

Electrical power here on Sugar Mountain is 200A 240VAC 1Ø utility service.

We do have the real, full, 240VAC across the two legs and 119.5VAC from each leg to ground. Some utilities only provide 105VAC or 110VAC and this can matter for some equipment.

We have single phase power (technically split-phase) from the utility. Eventually I will be installing a 3-Phase converter (3Ø) for some of the equipment so both 3Ø and 1Ø are options. If possible I would put off doing the 3Ø for later when I will need it for the scalder/dehairer.

Current is limited to 200Amps at the utility transformer. We are used to turning off some equipment on the farm to turn on other high demand equipment so as not to exceed our 200A limit – that’s life more than a mile beyond the end of the utility power line service range. The installation and upgrade cost of native three phase power and higher power is $80,000 or more so that is beyond our range. The other thing about rural Vermont is we get a lot of power outages. No generator for now which would run about $25,000 – I would rather spend that money on solar, wind or hydro power.

We also have liquid propane via a 1,000 gal in ground tank for the hot water (Da-bomb). We will be pre-warming our source water off of the refrigeration condensers (Fre-Heater) as well as eventually using solar hot water.

Our other sources of power are wood and muscle but we’ll ignore those for the moment.

Equipment I’m considering

Hobart 4822 Meat Chopper
1.5 HP/120VAC/60Hz/1Ø, 12-20 lbs/minute
The one we’re looking at from Hobart has a funnel throat which is the second one on the pdf document at the link above.
Anyone using this?
How realistic is the throughput claim?
Initially we’ll be stuffing off of the grinder horn.
Is it worth getting the 240VAC/60Hz/1Ø or 3Ø options?

Meat Saw:
Hobart 6614 Meat Saw
3 HP/240VAC/60Hz/3Ø
The smallest Hobart they now makes – we need small as we have a small space. I looked at some table models from other companies but have not found any yet that I could get good feedback on from people who have used them.
This Hobart model 6614 is 3Ø by default. $800 for a 1Ø option. I have to get 3Ø for another piece of equipment so we’re going to be getting 3Ø eventually but that would be not for a year if I go with the 1Ø option on the saw. Thoughts?

Vacuum Packer:
Minipack-America MVS45XII Table Top Vacuum Packer
Pump: Busch KB Oil Rotary
8.5″ high x 18.5″ x 18″ chamber
2 sealing bars 14″ apart waffle pattern seal
3 cycles per minute, 24 cu-meters/hr displacement
Does anyone have this?
How well it pulls down vacuum?
How well it locks the seals?
Real world speed of use / packages per hour?
Experience with service on this company?

Hot Water Heater:
Takagi T-D2 On-Demand Hot Water
LPG/120VAC/60Hz/1Ø 70°F rise
We’ll be getting two of these which run in series off the propane. The first one will boost our water to 145°F. The second water heater in the series will boost that to 185°F. Each is capable of a 70°F temperature rise which just barely brings us up to the required 185°F water temperature.
We are a very, very small scale facility so the water volume is enough.
Our water is not hard or soft – in between. Anyone using these?
Experience with service on this company?

3Ø Rotary Converter:
Eventually I’ll have to install a three phase converter for our electric power to run the scalder/scraper. I may be installing one sooner for other equipment. Three phase motors run more smoothly, are more powerful, more durable, have less vibration and last longer than single phase motors. Putting this off saves money but doing it may be the better equipment choice. Opinions?

The bandsaw comes default as 3Ø. The grinder comes in default as 1Ø. The vacuum packer is 1Ø with no option of 3Ø. I’m not settled yet on if I’ll get the bandsaw converted to 1Ø to make the 3Ø not yet necessary or if I’ll get a rotary phase converter and run the bandsaw at the 3Ø. If I do the latter I’ll probably get the grinder with the 3Ø option. Opinions on this are appreciated from those in the know. I do electronics and wiring but have not worked with 3Ø equipment before so all I have is theory.

If I do go for the 3Ø does anyone have suggestions on good or bad 3Ø converter choices? I’ve not picked one yet. My understanding from reading is that the rotary converters are better than the electronic or static units and they should be sized 2x the load.

I’m looking at rotary phase converters from these companies:
Phoenix Phase Converters
American Rotary

Does anyone use these products and know the service record of these companies? Other vendors?

Update: I ended up going with the above equipment and a Phase Perfect PT-355 Phase Converter from Phase Technologies. I’m very happy with all of the equipment other than a little rust on the Hobart grinder and bandsaw – Hobart had failed to match their metals properly on a few parts.

Any experience and feedback on any of these pieces of equipment is greatly appreciated. If you have suggestions of other equipment that you think is better for our small scale needs then I would love to hear that too. Leave throughts in comments. If you’re not comfortable about leaving a public comment you can eMail me.



PS. Please limit comments on this post to this related to the equipment, power, etc. For other comments about the project use the butcher shop page, for other farm related comments use the farm page, etc.

Related posts about the equipment:
Rusty Grinder Knives
Initial Dry Run
Initial Wet Run
Wet Run with Master Butcher Cole Ward
Mini Packer Arrival
First Vacuum Package
Phase Converter
Equipment in Mock Butcher Shop
Heat Pump Water Heater Arrival
Precision Packing – Walton’s Stuffer
Farmer, Baker, Butcher

Outdoors: 20°F/10°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/62°F

Daily Spark: Good things come to those who wade for them.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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30 Responses to Equipment Choices for Butcher shop

  1. >Someone said they were surprised that a generator wasn’t a high priority item.

    I spent a lot of time considering generators. For our equipment we would need a big generator. It turns out they are not all that critical to operations in our climate. Our refrigeration is based on high thermal mass, we live in a cold climate and almost all of the power outages happen in the cold season. Even a power outage in the warm season won’t causes us to lose product due to temperatures. All an outage does is turn off the power tools and we then do hand work or put away the meat and go do something else. Thus a generated panned out as being a luxury in our case. In a warm climate or without the high thermal mass (1.6Mlbs) of our building that could be very different. This saved about $25K plus install and maintenance.

  2. in my experience, always get the best equipment you can possibly afford. if you think you need 3 phase, then you do. don’t skimp on your equipment. tools make you money. good tools make you good money. you are going to be working with these tools day in and day out for many years to come. money spent here is money in the bank later. as if you buy cheap tools you will inevitably have to upgrade at some point. save money else where. tools are where you get the best you possibly can.

    note: check the used market. used tools are dirt cheap, meaning you can often get the better equipment you need at bargain prices.

  3. Belseth says:

    3 Phase maybe overkill unless you’re running seriously large equipment. 1.5 and 3 horse motors aren’t large enough to warrant 3 phase they have the option because large operations may use mainly 3 phase. I’d always lean on the side of 240 though. I’ve dealt with wood and metal equipment where grinders would stall with 120 motors but the same exact machine when we upgraded to the same motor just set up for 240 couldn’t be stalled. For most things 120 is perfectly adequate but not where you can run onto a lot of resistance like in a grinder. Always lean on the side of overkill rather than under kill.

  4. Edmund Brown says:

    I also am often of the school of thought that says to buy the biggest, toughest tool your budget allows, but I’m not convinced 3 phase is worth it in your case.

    My neighbor is 80 and a retired dairy farmer. He bought a 3/4 hp meat grinder used out of retail butcher shop back in the 1970s. The machine itself dates from the early 1950s and it was used almost daily for 20 years up until the butcher shop closed its doors for good. When he had his own cows he’d always slaughter one or two of his, plus process a bunch of deer during hunting season. It is way more machine than is necessary for this level of processing as it probably goes through 5 to 8 lbs/minute depending on various factors (very cold meat helps).

    The machine you linked to for grinding is rated for 12 to 20 lbs/minute. Even if you’re conservative and say it will only do twice the numbers I just quoted (since it has twice the power of my neighbor’s grinder) that’s still 10 to 16 lbs/minute. If you’re grinding 7-800 lbs/week that means somewhere near 1 hour of actual motor use per week. I expect you’ll take that much time again to set up, handle the meat, and clean everything after grinding. I think even a single phase motor should last a good long time under that kind of load.

    I’ve used a smallish, but nice vacuum packer a bit. I do know busch makes a bomber pump, and see that is the pump on the model you linked to. Do you want it to have two sealing bars for a reason? I found it sometimes required a little finagling to get the plastic bags to lie flat for a good seal, and I think it would be four times more difficult sealing two edges at the same time, not just twice as hard. But maybe I don’t understand the purpose of two bars. Also, if I am understanding it correctly, and the bags would be open on two ends, have you priced them vs single sided bags? Vacuum bags can get pricey and they’re on ongoing expense for a butcher shop.

    Final thought – what about propane for your scalder? Too much heat and moisture where you don’t want it? Seems a shame to go through the expense and hassle of installing 3 phase if you can find ways to avoid it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. The scalder’s 3-phase electrical need is actually for the motor, not the water heating. The water heating is done with propane. The way the scalder works is it is a huge pig washing machine. You put the pig in, close the scalder/dehairer’s lid and it turns on tumbling up to a 600 lb pig around and around, bumbity bump. It’s surprisingly quiet given what’s doing. Then 90 seconds later you open the lid and are presented with a huge, clean, hairless white pig – even if a black, red or spotted pig went in. It’s quite amazing to see. So, I’ll need to have the 3Ø electric for the scalder’s motor. That is by far the biggest motor we are planning. That means installing the rotary three phase converter is a definite, the only question is when.

      On your dairy farmer neighbor’s experience, Cole Ward, the butcher we trained with, talked about this too. At one place he worked they had a huge grinder which they spent too much time cleaning out and couldn’t do small batches with. He suggested one in the 1,000 lb/hour (17 lb/minute) or a little more which is what this unit is. We do only 800 lbs of ground a week but we’re actually doing that 800 lbs all in one day which is about three hours of motor time if we have to double grind as is the case for some things and stuff with the same unit. I had been leaning towards a significantly smaller grinder but after talking with Cole I think he’s right that we need the larger unit.

      The double bar is for when doing small packages like half a pound and such. We actually a lot bit of that as we sell sausage mostly in half pound packs – that is what the stores order. I do not have a lot of experience with vacuum packers and appreciate your feedback. The bags are definitely an ongoing expense to watch.

  5. JP Swift says:

    Hey Walter,
    I’ve used the small Hobart table top grinder and it works well. I always thought it was slow because I cut meat at a grocery store and also had a large stand alone Hobart grinder which was much faster. We would do 25# batches of sausage in both and finally sod the smaller unit. The smaller one is easier to clean which you should do after each type of sausage. The hopper is really small though. The large unit ends up having a lot of grind in the head because you need something behind it to push out. That means you need to take that apart to get that grind out to add spices. I also think that you would want a stand alone meat saw just for stability. Table tops are harder to work with in that respect. Hobart is the best as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never seen any other brand in supermarkets or real butcher shops. Surprised sometimes that supermarkets have a saw any more because most people who work in them don’t know much about what their doing… but that’s another subject.

  6. Wayne says:

    Given your hot water needs and desire for high efficiency I was surprised not to see a Polaris water heater. My dad used to build those and would rave about how great they are.

  7. Jeremy Loucks says:

    Can’t figure out why a bandsaw would need 3-phase; however, you may be able to install a capacitor to mimic 3-phase during startup. Once the bandsaw was up to speed, single phase should run it effectively.

  8. karl says:

    It is very important that your water heater is recirculation compatible. Takagi had trouble with this in the past. I will be installing a smallish Noritz 200k as soon as I can afford. I work with many plumbers that swear by them and they work well with solar. Have you checked this one out: ?

  9. Zach Zost says:

    I use a vacuum-pac machine at the culinary school; which gets put through it’s paces. Between many students messing around with it and the instructors doing their “personal” projects on it, I say it has held up well. The only thing I have noticed is the bags need to be bought with plenty of thought before hand as to how they are going to be used.
    For me, when I bring in a whole hog to process for myself, I most often find an issue of not having enough bag for the product, or the wrong size bag. I wish I could have two strips of plastic that sealed around the product; no matter the size.
    But, in the end, I find myself spending most of my time waiting for the machine to go through its vacuum cycle then checking seals. The packaging process can be the most tedious process due to preping bags, insertion, vacuum, check, and label process.
    We use the following machine:
    Hope this helps!

  10. Bill says:

    Hey Walter – I’ve been following this project for a while now, and I’m excited to see this post because I’ve used that exact grinder, bandsaw, and cryo.

    As far as the 4822 goes, good choice with the funnel feed tube, it really does make all the difference and you won’t spend all your time using the masher. It seems like throughput is a concern, and my suggestion is just to take it easy and not really load it up. 22 lbs/m is realistic, but in the interest of keeping everything cold and looking right, I’d shoot for more like 18 or so per minute.

    Stuffing off the machine works fine, but again take it easy. I’m not a fan of worm-driven stuffing, but I get the need to keep costs down. Keep an eye out for a good deal on a used/rebuilt hydraulic stuffer. That’s going to change your life, especially at the volume you are planning to be at.

    Bandsaw is great. Hobart is the industry standard. Don’t waste your time with tabletop models. I can’t tell you how many farmers and small game processors have tabletop saws collecting dust in storage because they immediately upgraded to a floor standing model.

    The MVS45 is an absolute beast of a cryo machine, we have 3 in use at the moment. Cycles fast, seals tight, and has good clearance with the domed lid. The sealing chamber is a single molded piece so it cleans up really easy. Great choice on that. Service direct from Minipack is a bit “eh”. I just ordered a larger model for a production facility and shipping took the better part of 3 months; “Manufacturing issues” apparently.

    As far as three phase conversion goes, if it was me, I’d just go ahead and install it. My experience has been 3 phase equipment lasts much longer as there is less wear and tear on the motors. That Hobart saw with a 3 phase motor will probably outlast you. A lot of times these machines are built for 3 phase, and the single phase option is shoehorned in.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 or 3 cents. Good luck with everything; I’m loving seeing everything come together.

  11. Norm Nelson says:

    I recently used a Hobart 4822FS… the funnel throat machine, for the first time. It was an older 1hp 230V 1ø version – but still had room for a full meat tote in the tray on top. We ground 50lbs of pork in a matter of a couple of minutes, so Hobart’s claim is accurate, if not conservative. It felt like the machine ground chunks faster than I could feed it using two hands. I spent much more time deboning and moving meat totes than I did feeding the grinder. We did some regrind – ground some pork coarse and then ran it through again to tube it, and the Hobart didn’t feed the pre-ground stuff as well or as fast, but still did a decent job. If I had to do again, I would experiment with using smaller plates, and try to just grind into the tuber the first time.

    I haven’t used any of the other equipment. I have an old ELM Aquastar on-demand propane hot water heater, and I love it… one thing about the on-demands is that they are sensitive to water pressure (they work on pressure differential) so you have to keep that in mind when you’re designing and using your system… but I love the endless hot water, and the propane fuel economy! (and ours is an old pilot light version)

    I would also recommend getting a rotary phase converter sooner rather than later. If you have any electronics skills at all, you can build one really pretty cheaply – especially if you have a source of capacitors – like an electronics recycling place or similar nearby. I plan on building a converter soon, and picked up a surplus (brand new!) 7.5hp 3ø motor for $80. Now I need a cabinet and some capacitors and a switch, and I’m most of the way there. For a bigger load, you just need a bigger motor. I also have a 15hp 3ø motor I picked up for free(!) that needs $70 worth of bearings… these deals are out there… a motor like that should be able to power about 10hp of 3ø loads.

    I would second Charlie’s comments, especially about the used market… these Hobart machines are built right – and if you could find a butcher shop, supermarket, school or such that is selling these off, you’ll pay pennies on the dollar – more than making up the difference for any wear & tear parts you might have to put into them…

  12. Patrick says:

    I haven’t used any of that equipment but I have experience in the 1|3 phase consideration. I do a lot of spec-out for electric systems in big data centers, and have learned a bit over the years.

    My advice is to avoid 3 phase for anything smaller than 5 HP and even then only if you need a long run time on the motor. It just doesn’t help. Someone else noted that 3-phase for smaller equipment is usually there for compatibility purposes in pre-wired shops. You got options beyond that.

    Rotary phase conversion is not an overly efficient process, either. Best case you lose about 20% for a midline model, and up to 30% on lesser beasts. If you want a converter with a good power factor and low loss, then go digital. But that extra money would be better spent on something you need (like a generator). So my advice is to go single phase where you can (voltage more important than phase at that level).

    And I admire your thoughts on the generator and your cooling mass and the like. I’ll just ask you one question: at 2000 pounds a week and 30% grind and brine, you could end up with how many pounds of product in various states of “almost decay temperature” in that FCB?

    Assuming you need 10 days for average brine (depending on cut), plus time to wrap and store until shipment. You are probably looking at up to 1000 pounds of “value add” product (in various stages) even with just-in-time production. Multiply that out by whatever number you got and consider that even a low-end maker like Generac will get your coolers over the hump using a manual transfer switch and cables. One good outage might pay for it. Or go slightly better and hit Kohler (better harmonic distortion). Stick with the SOHO propane units and you won’t pay the diesel unit cost.

    Just sayin’.

    • You might have missed the thermal mass of our facility and each of its five insulated shells. The way our building is designed and constructed is such that it maintains temperature using it’s 1.6 million pounds of thermal mass inside thick layers of insulation. The mass will boost by another quarter million pounds of phase change mass in the coolth attic. Even without the electrically driven mechanical refrigeration system it would theoretically take 46 weeks of summer heat of 86°F to raise the temperature in our FCB/Reefer to above the refrigeration temperatures – thus no decay. Our annual mean temperature is about 50°F. We’ll see how that turns out in practice by monitoring it in the real world. The tests I’ve run over the past two years before the system is fully operational all indicate it will be that good or better so I’m not worried about losing product to over temperature in the event of a power outage. The longest continuous power outage we have ever had is four days. That was during massive ice storm of 1998. Since that was during the winter, which is when we get almost all outages, it was plenty cold and would not have been a problem. A power outage of 46 weeks would be a pretty high level disaster which would have other issues and generator’s would have little meaning for that as it would run out of fuel. Thus my comment about solar, hydro and wind above.

      Good to know about the propane vs diesel on the generator. That fits what I’ve heard from others and I would lean towards propane if we put in a generator.

      On the rotary phase converter, we’ll have to do one at some point as the pig tumbler (scalder/dehairer) motor needs three phase and that we need for doing roaster pigs. So given that it must happen within 12 to 18 months (slaughter) the question becomes should I do it now or hold off on 3Ø until we finish off the Abattoir.

  13. mark fasching says:

    why not use diesel? tax free for ag use, wouldnt that save you money over time vs. propane? How about a wood fired boiler for heating water? youve got lots of fuel for that. Great to see your progress – good luck!

    • I looked into diesel but decided against it. Diesel is more expensive here. And dirtier. And more regulated by the EPA at that level of use. And if we store it in an underground tank there are vast regulatory and leakage issues. And if we store it above ground there are other problems. And it black stacks. Diesel just had too many negatives. On the plus side I can make my own. But I can also make methane if I wanted to go that way.

      Eventually we’ll setup solar hot water and I expect that will be able to easily provide all our hot water needs. We also plan to get hot water off of our compost plus we will probably run a booster off the wood too but those are projects for another year.

  14. Norm Nelson says:

    Walter, how many HP (or kW) is the 3 phase motor on the Koch?

    • The motor is 2.2KW which is 3HP. What really needs the three-phase power is when the motor starts up with a carcass, up to 250 kg (550 lbs), sitting on the paddles. The water heater in the scalder is also connected to the electric but we will be filling the scalder with pre-heated water and I may disable the third leg of the heating elements so that portion of the machine is just single phase (actually split phase). Without the scalder I might have gone with just single phase as most other equipment is available single phase.

      Since we will have 3Ø for the scalder we’ll also get the hoist in 3Ø so that it will have the faster lift speed.

  15. Andrew says:

    That’s a great little band saw; I use the same one cutting meat for a busy supermarket in downtown Boston where we work with relatively large beef primals. Not for nothing, since you’re a relatively small operation and you’re probably going to be doing all of the nitty-gritty yourself rather than paying a cleanup crew, it cleans and dissembles easily. I’ve actually used smaller saws that’re MORE difficult to clean. Provided your hogs are coming to you already split, you can do anything with that machine, though it might feel a little bit cramped trying to split a 225# carcass. Doable, but cramped. To me, a concession like “cramped” seems to sound fine when you’re looking at your financial numbers, but then when you’re dealing with it week after week after week you might start to wish you had thrown down the extra cash.

    As for the grinder, I’ve worked with a similar size and HP at a much smaller mom-and-pop butcher shop that did about 60# of ground beef in addition to 10# of other species ground per day, about 100# total, and even in that capacity I found it to be a little bit slow, especially when it came to regrinds, as a previous poster noted. Likewise, I also must second the notion that sausage-stuffing through the grinder worm has the potential to produce an inferior product when compared to a piston-stuffer. If you think you can live with grinding 700 pounds of meat a week in that Hobart, you’d probably likewise be able to manage making your sausages with a small piston machine — even a hand-cranked one. We make about 1000# of sausage alone (not including fresh grinds) in a typical week at my current supermarket with a 15# capacity hand-crank stuffer. It actually works out well for the number of flavors we produce and the batch sizes (30# hot, 30# sweet, 15, 15, 10 of other flavors on a typical weekday). Provided, we’re working in daily 100# batches and slightly larger on the weekend rather than processing all 1000# in one day (maybe your arm would get a little more tired than you’d like it to), I don’t think the hand-crank machines are too much of an investment for a superior product.

    And on to the vacuum sealer…
    I receive product from local farms every day at my current job from guys trying to vacuum seal with these tabletop machines. I’ve worked with these, and I’ve worked with floor model machines. I’ve never worked with this particular brand, but I find it hard to believe in the 3 cycles per minute, which also most certainly doesn’t include loading and unloading time which’s going to pile up very quickly in an 18″ by 18″ chamber. The lousy seals that I receive from small processing plants seem to be better than nothing in terms of product-life, but in terms of pork, sometimes I’d almost rather receive a skin-on primal or sub-primal protected by its own fat and bone and have to trim the dried cut-faces than receive a shoddily cryovac’d, juicing, bubbling weird looking bag that starts turning green a day or two after I receive it, at which point I STILL have to trim off the cut faces since they’re now green, and it’s not St. Patrick’s day yet. But the world of CVP and boxes is the world in which we live, nowadays, unfortunately. Since you’re mostly selling boneless, you’ll probably be OK, but these small machines rarely seem to put a good seal on bone-in stuff even when the bones are covered with a protective layer of something. I guess my main point is the loading and unloading time on a small machine. It’s going to get very monotonous. If they claim 3 cycles per minute, I’d guess more like 1 or 2 depending on how good you are at multitasking (getting something else done while you’re waiting for the seal, you’ll probably find yourself walking a few steps away from the machine until you hear the seal which’ll also slow you down, unless you’re the type who can deal with just sitting, waiting for things to seal for a few hours). Being able to have as many bags in the chamber at a time is so key, as I’ve worked with a two-chamber machine with 24″ chambers. Even though they take up more space, bigger is always better with these.

    Just my opinion.

    • Thanks for the detailed reply! We’ll be getting the carcasses in halves while we continue to work with the slaughterhouse we take to now (Adams) and then I expect we’ll split on the rail when we have our own slaughterhouse setup. One butcher I worked with did do splitting on the bandsaw. I have never since seen sawn sows. (Sorry, I just had to put those words together, true though.)

  16. DrFood says:

    Can’t comment on the butchering supplies, but we installed a (natural gas) Takagi on demand water heater for our house when we put in the solar hot water system. The Takagi was the only one able to adjust for the temperature of the water coming in. I think that Bosch also has this capability now–we made that purchase a few years ago.

    The solar hot water system made a difference even in the winter, but in the summer we could just turn off the Takagi from May to October many years. That was in Wisconsin. Now we’ve moved to Portland, Oregon–not nearly as much sun!

  17. Nat says:

    What are your thoughts on the ELM Big Bite grinders? I’ve never used one, just looked at them online.

  18. Alex says:

    What are you using for carcass splitter? As for volume when you say max 20 pigs per week are you slaughtering one day per week? In terms of inspection does vermont require permanent inspection while slaughtering (inspector in facility day of slaughter)?

    • Inspection is the same as USDA with and inspector present at all slaughters, antemortem, etc. We’ll do slaughter one day a week. Our normal goal is 10 finisher cutters per week plus roasters and one sow a month plus one boar a year. Experience shows that seasonally there are spikes especially in the roaster pigs but also some on the finishers in the fall.

      I have not decided on a carcass splitter yet as that is a while from now. Any suggestions?

      We are starting with raw process, sausage, then curing and smoking which will later be followed by slaughter. The slaughter costs us the least hired outside and costs us the most to implement here.

  19. Sam Payne says:

    Hi Walter,

    I just stumbled across your site while researching ground tubes for a house we may build near Brattleboro, partnering with….a friend who also raises pigs! Synchronicity.
    I spent time looking through your site, thinking about bacon and ground tubes, impressed by your approach and farm, thinking about bacon mostly, and finally hit something I might be able to help with: I have built 4 phase converters from plans given to me by people on the list–a forum dedicated to rebuilding and using old woodworking machinery (the same as vintage machinery site a previous poster listed). My largest is a pony start 15HP model. In any case it is easy, interesting, inexpensive, and fun to build a converter. At the basic level all the converter is, is a 3 phase motor with a single phase supply attached to two of the motor leads and a 3 wire, 3 phase supply attached to all the leads. When spinning, the motor produces 3 phase power clean enough to power everything except CNC equipment. Because the motor will not start up on a single phase supply, some other means of starting it is needed. People used to just wrap a rope around the shaft and pull start it. The electrical box you see on commercial models has switchgear in it which connects oil-filled capacitors to the motor to start it up, and disconnects them after voltages rise. Not rocket science, not even solid state electronics involved. That’s it, other than capacitors added between the lines to balance the loads, also easy to do. They are robust: the only moving parts you will have to deal with are the contactors and motor bearings. 3 phase motor are a pure pleasure to work with–I have literally dragged old cast iron frame water-soaked motors out of dumps, replaced the bearings, dried them out and they fire right up and are still running. Rotary converters are very efficient–about 95%, (see manufacturer websites for confirmation) and with one converter you can run any appropriately sized motor of the same nameplate voltage in your shop. Two more cool things about them: 1.) You can start a big converter with a limited service amperage (like yours) by belting it to a smaller pony motor because doing so avoids most of the starting amperage inrush otherwise needed. I use a 3/4 HP single phase motor to start my 15HP converter, and the lights don’t even dim when it starts. 2.) If you have trouble starting a motor with a high torque load (Pig scaler), then start the other motor(s) in the circuit without a load on them (for example the bandsaw, spinning freely). The motors collectively will act as phase converters as well, and provide more torque. This is very useful in a pinch…and incentive to get more 3 phase machinery, which is almost always better made, cheaper, more stable, and much more pleasant to use. I avoid single phase motors whenever I can. It’s easy to build a converter for less than $250 because all of the equipment you need is available as industrial surplus–probably even less expensive for you because you know everyone in your area. They are easy to balance as well, as long as you have a enough capacitors and a multi-meter.
    The rules for the electrical section of the vintagemachinery forum changed recently for insurance reasons, and I don’t believe they allow discussion of converter wiring anymore, but I do happen to have a set of very good plans give to me by a member there, or believe I have them somewhere on my computer still… If you’re interested, please email me! The ‘electrical’ forum section has great discussions of rotary phase conversion, VFD’s, and every other method of 3 phase generation. Also, the members there are incredibly helpful, never snarky, and answer questions quickly. Some of them work for utilities, some have 50 years in shops–the level of expertise is pretty amazing. I’ve built up a whole shop full of old, heavy duty, commercial wood working machinery with their help.
    If you are forced by the electrical inspector to buy a commercial unit, I’d get a used one. Bearings are cheap, and it is unlikely to need anything other than a cleaning. They regularly come up on Craigslist under a search for “3 phase” (also try for a complete regional craigslist search), and you could pick one up on a delivery run. For disconnects, wire, capacitors, contactors and a panel, if necessary, I’d search industrial surplus yards in your area and craigslist. If you know an industrial electrician: paydirt! They throw out lots of old stuff which is still functional, and very well made. Very expensive new, nearly worthless used. Go figure. Last and best of all, 3 phase motors are everywhere once you start looking for them, and dirt cheap. Best of luck, Sam Payne

  20. Someone asked about table top bandsaws. I looked into the table top models when I was building my on-farm butcher shop and came to the conclusion that they were not worth it. I ended up getting a Hobart 6614. This does mean 3Ø power. I used a digital phase converter to achieve that as I also need it for the scalder and the grinder. I’ve been using it for 18 months or so and I’m very pleased with it aside from a few small problems where they used incompatible metals that causes some rusting. It is mostly stainless steel but there are different grades of stainless steel.

    That said, I only use the bandsaw for:
    chine off
    soup bone cutting
    Occasional bone-in roasts
    chine breaking for knife cut bone-in pork chops

    I do all my meat cutting with knives and mostly we sell boneless cuts as that is the demand at stores and restaurants.

    This means I use the saw for about half an hour to 45 minutes a _week_. It takes about 20 minutes to clean thoroughly. I arrange my work so I do all my saw work one day each week. It’s very fast. It does a very good job of what it does. If we were doing a smaller volume of pigs then I wouldn’t be able to justify the cost of the bandsaw – I’m right on the edge of it’s application.

  21. Someone asked:

    Talk to me about phase converters.
    I have a Hobart 3phase but no 3phase in the building. I have a static converter on the way, not familiar with digital. I’m fine with some power loss, as this thing is 3 HP which is overkill.

    There are rotary phase converters and digital phase converters. After a lot of research I went with the digital as it uses almost now power when not active and very little power loss when active. I also got a unit that is significantly more powerful than my equipment – overkill is generally a good idea. See:
    Here’s the breaker panels I use:
    I do all my own electric. If it is greek to you then hire an electrician.

  22. Someone asked how I like the packer after a few years of use:

    I’m happy with the Minipack-America MVS45XII I got and have been using for three years. We do about 7 to 12 pigs a week. About 1,000 to 1,500 packages of meat.

    The only problems I’ve had with it are that after sales support is poor, they make you jump through hoops to buy replacement parts and oil and one segment of the LED display failed off. It still functions fine, just annoying. I think that is a design flaw – they didn’t make it fully waterproof when it is a machine that will be used in a wet humid environment.

    I plan to buy another, their wider model for packing roaster pigs, big hams, shoulders, etc.

    – Walter Jeffries

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