Label Printing Machine

If I go the commercial printing route it looks like I must get 5,000 labels printed in order to get to a reasonable price per label. Even then I’m at the wrong end of the cost curve but it’s better than the next quantity step down by far. That means about $750 per batch of labels or about 15¢ per label. I need two different batches, one for each butcher. So that’s $1,500 in startup costs. If either butcher goes out of business I’m faced with big costs again as well as when I need new labels.

LX-400I may have found a solution to the problem of having to have two runs of labels from the commercial printer. I just found the Primera LX-400 label printer. It lists for $1,495 but retails for as low as $1,120. The LX-400 will let me print the labels in high quality 4800 dpi, much better than my 600 dpi inkjet printer, on rolls (makes the butcher’s happy) for about 8¢ per label (ink+label stock) which is less than they are at the 5,000 quantity (15¢/label) from the commercial printer. I’ve requested samples and emailed Primera some questions. We’ll see where that leads. A big question is how well the labels will stick to frozen items.

I’m also investigating sheet fed labels for my inkjet printer. The advantage of using my existing inkjet printer is I already have the printer thus saving space, electricity and $1,120 for the printer. The disadvantage is the labels are not as high a quality and I’ve yet to find ones with freezer quality adhesive. The Staples and Avery labels I’ve tested so far fell off in the freezer.

Holly says to go with the LX-400. Her point is that we’ve saved so much money on feed with the whey we should spend a little money to get the right label printing machine which gives us flexibility and savings. Quality labels will help sell products in the store and pay for themselves in the long run. Additionally the LX-400 labels are cheaper than the commercial labels unless we get into huge (>15,000) quantities. She’s quite against the commercial printing of the labels because of the issue of having to get new labels printed if the butcher goes out of business. We’ve already had two butchers close in the last several years and another one, which we didn’t use, burned down – fortunately we had no labels to worry about at that time.

Despite my penny pinching ways I’m incline to agree with her and splurge for the printer. It will be interesting to see the samples. As a side note I think it could also print bumper stickers and I would be able to print labels for other farmers helping with the machine’s up front costs. An interesting idea.

Update 2008-01-26: I now have both the LX 400 label printer for labels and the Xerox 8560 printer for brochures & other printing. Check out this article where I discuss both in more detail as well as the printer we got for printing posters. Also, there you’ll find out about how to get a free color printer.

Outdoors: 20°F/18°F 4″ Snow, Windy
Farm House: 61°F/49°F three logs
Tiny Cottage: 44°F/39°F door open

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Label Printing Machine

  1. Sasha says:

    Hi Walter,

    Definitely go with the professional looking labels. It’s probably really stupid, but I never question the professionalism of something that has a “real” label on it. I can’t explain why but it’s something almost primal and when it come to meat, I think this is hugely important.

  2. karl says:

    a few other factors are ink durability in possibly wet conditions and the speed that the new printer will perform. the later might never be an issue but ink durability against moisture seems paramount.

  3. Urban Agrarian says:

    Buying the printer seems to give you so much more flexibility, and doesn’t seem like much more upfront cost. It’s a ‘just in time’ solution which makes you more nimble. Printing labels for other farmers seems like more trouble than it’s worth, but I really don’t know. I’m thinking you will find other uses for the printer though. Printers can jam and get out of alignment so the printing may need to be watched. I bet Hope could be a very capable vice president of label printing. quality control and rolling up labels. Also you seem techy enough to figure out all the escape sequences for commands that those specialized printers might need. Better yet, I bet Will and Ben could handle that part.

  4. Anonymous says:


    I’m not sure if the label printer will work for you. You would have to print more than 15,000 labels before the $1000 spent on a labeller brought you down to the 15 cents/label price of the professional job. (you said 8 cents for labels and ink, so divide $1k by 7 cents)

    Being a fellow penny pincher, I tend to analyze these things to death too. I would worry that the entry level label printer would give you trouble before it paid for itself in label printing. They just don’t build electronics like they used to. These printers aren’t usually built to last. I wonder if you can’t find a cheaper online printer? My wife uses Vistaprint for her business and found it to be very cost competetive.

    I think the inkjet printed labels will bleed. Maybe you can find special paper that can handle moisture, but the inkjet stuff doesn’t usually hold up well.


  5. Podchef says:

    This printer seems to be the right fit. With water-proof labels–the sample gallery with dairy, meat and water bottle uses seems to back this up–flexibility and cost it’s a winner! Hopefully the stickum will be stout enough to hang on in the freezer.

    You might think to do tests on a frozen meat package and freezer paper which is warm and then gets frozen. We buy bulk butter and cut and wrap it and normal tape always works to seal the warm paper, but try to tape shut some that’s already been frozen and forget it!

    Being in control of your own media–blog, brochures, labels, etc–is always better in my mind. It allows you to adjust, alter and add things on the fly without wasting money on something which is already printed. I fought the phone company for months to keep my old number–even though it’s hard to remember–because I had umpteen thousand business cards left with the that number on them. . . . .

    It’s sad to hear that local butchers are folding and the future is so shaky for them. I was in our nearest custom-cut shop picking up a sizable order–3 steers, two pigs, 4 sheep–and noted that their business card board only had one or two farmer’s cards on it–the rest were for local excavation companies, auction houses, and breeders-and nothing near as nice as your card.

  6. Chris, I’ve used VistaPrint before for other things but I’ve not found meat labels on their product line. Has your wife gotten food labels from VistaPrint? What was the product and where can I find it on their web site. The labels need to be able to withstand freezing, refrigeration and water so regular label inks and adhesives won’t work – part of the whole inkjet label dilemma and why I hesitate to go with labels for my existing desktop printers.

    As to crunching the numbers, here’s what I get:

    Offset LX-400
    Setup Cost 240 1120
    Per Label 0.099 0.06375
    Qty Cost Cost
    250 n/a 1,136
    500 n/a 1,152
    1,000 339 1,184
    2,000 438 1,248
    5,000 735 1,439
    10,000 1,230 1,758
    15,000 1,725 2,076
    20,000 2,220 2,395
    30,000 3,210 3,033
    50,000 5,190 4,308

    The second column of numbers is a commercial printer, the best I’ve found, and the third column is the LX-400 printer. Since I have to do a minimum of 1,000 labels with the printer and 2,000 is virtually the same price and 5,000 is where the curve gets reasonable we would do 5,000. We will use them.

    With the commercial printer we would have to do two runs, one for each butcher making the cost be 2 x $735 = $1,470. (Double the 5,000 line in the second column.) Add shipping to that and you’re over the cost of the LX-400. If a butcher goes out of business I’m back at square one but have no printer if I don’t buy the LX-400. If I buy the LX-400 then I just change my artwork and print more labels.

    The chart includes the fact that I can get the ink and the printer from many vendors below the suggested retail price. That further cuts the cost of the LX-400 labels to 6.375¢ each.

    Basically, commercially printed labels seem to be a curve approaching 10¢ per label at best with the LX-400 approaching 7¢ per label including the cost of the printer and electricity. The difference between the 7¢ LX-400 and the 10¢ commercial label is my time, the printer’s profit, overhead, etc. The big benefit for me is flexibility gained by being able to print in small numbers and not having to stock multiple years of printed labels which may go “bad” and become useless.

    Primera is sending samples of the LX-400 labels so I’ll see how they look and how durable they are. That is going to be the big test. They claim: “Wide Variety of Substrates – Including Water-Resistant Labels – LX400 prints onto many different label, tag and ticket materials, including inkjet coated high-gloss, semi-gloss and matte labels. Labels printed on high-gloss material are highly scratch- and smudge-resistant and virtually waterproof. This is a perfect solution for primary or box labels that can be exposed to water, rain and snow.” We’ll see how they look after I get the samples. You can be sure I’ll report it. :)

    As to how well the machine is built, that is a good question. I just got off the phone with Jennifer Stein at Primera and she said it is an industrial grade machine being used in meat processing plants. It is not fast. I expect it will have a duty cycle that is plenty for our needs. I am very facile with machinery from mechanical to programming, etc so I don’t have a lot of worries there. The numbers above suggest that if it will print over 50,000 labels then it comes out well ahead even if I have to buy replacement printer down the line. I have several desktop printers that I’ve nursed along to over 1.5 million copies.

  7. Sarah says:

    Hi Walter,

    I’m with Holly about buying the printer. It doesn’t seem like “splurging” when you also factor in the tax writeoff (as a business expense), and cost effectiveness you outline.

    I would also strongly second Sasha and those concerned with the ink running when exposed to moisture. In addition a lower resolution print job on an inkjet printer will not look “real” enough. Before you decide to buy the printer though, consider comparing the LX-400’s print quality in their samples to samples from the commercial printing house, just to see what the differences are in label and print quality and durability.

  8. Anonymous says:


    Sounds like the printer is built a bit better for your purposes than I thought. My wife has never had frozen food labels printed, so you’re probably right, Vistaprint doesn’t have them.

    You really are as thorough in your research as I am! At least you know you look at all options.


  9. Well… I got some of the Primera label samples today. They are incredibly gorgeous. The labels as good or better than the best labels I see in the stores. They are completely photographic. I’m drooling over them… In fact, some of the drool got on the labels and I rubbed it around but couldn’t get the labels to smear. So they do appear to be water resistant, perhaps I dare even say water proof. I licked one, they taste terrible but they still didn’t smear. Realize I’m doing this all in the interest of science.

    So, the labels look fabulous. The price is good, better than getting them offset printed or digitally printed. The only hitch is Xerox has offered to send me a free color printer, their 8560. But I must find label stock to fit that and it would be sheets, not rolls. One of the butchers prefers rolls. The other doesn’t care. So many choices… :)

  10. We carry a full line of stock for the Primera LX 400 and the Lx810 We have over 3,000 dies in house for different sizes. The machines althoug very new are very durable at this point so far not many problems at all. The samples you recevied from Primera are water resistant but not water proof, We do have those also but they are a bit more money and they are Bopp labels that are plastic and fully water proof. If you are intrested on prices on the stock for the machine or the machine itself let me know My company is GLenroy Inc and we have been in business for 45 years. We stand behind all of our equipment and we also do flexographic printing Min order is 5,000 labels at a cost of around 30.00 per 1000 depending on how many colors you are using. If you have any questions call or e-mail me or 845-416-4815 Even if you dont buy from me I can answer all your questions you may have on the LX400. Have a great day all.

    David Prince
    Glenroy Inc.

  11. In addition to looking at the Primera label printers (LX400 in our case) we’re also looking at using the Xerox 8560 DN. That would be sheet fed instead of roll fed. Do you offer labels that would work in the Xerox 8560 which would be appropriate for a butcher shop and meat where they would get refrigerated and frozen?

  12. Walter

    We only sell Roll Stock its your cheapest bet over the long run. I dont have any dealing with Xerox so I cant help you with that but we hands down beat primera on all pricing for the label stock. We care 3 types of material for these machines

    High-Gloss “Water Resistant”
    Bopp “Fully water proof with an All Tempature adhesive”

    If you have any questions let me know I think you will be much happier with a LX400 or LX810.


  13. Debra says:

    I am interested in printing labels for food products that will be refrigerated but most likely not frozen. What do you think of this particular label machine? What are the sources for purchasing the machine and also the labels? Thank you.


  14. Debra,

    I like the printer a lot. It is great for products that will be frozen as well as fresh. Ideally you want to apply labels before you freeze the product. I have applied the labels to frozen products. You have to dry and warm the surface of the frozen product packaging before applying a label. To find printers and supplies I would use a search like this on Google.



  15. For an update on the Primera label printer see this post.

  16. Jack says:

    You mentioned somewhere about needing labels that also worked with the butchers printer (heat printing thing-a-ma-giggy). Did you figure out which labels met that requirement?

    • We had those for a while. Not only were they very expensive but that butcher was also problem. We put up with his antics for years. We finally stopped working with him when Adams Family Slaughter reopened. They are honest, do a far better job and let us use higher quality labels. I highly recommend Adams if you are in New England or even the NY area. They are worth the long drive. If they were near us we might not be building our own butcher shop – the Adams family is that good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.