Stainless Steel Convertible

Remember the stereotype of middle aged guys who go out and buy a shiny new red convertable an arm candy wife to go with it? Well, I’m going to keep the one I’ve got. However, I did buy a $40,000 BM20S convertible for my birthday. Instead of red I chose stainless steel. Holly said that was a very functional choice, easy to polish clean – she approved. Good thing as she is the arm candy* who I want to keep with it.

My new convertible only has three wheels, two on the floor and one inside. No, it is not a motorcycle either. It makes bit of a racket when it revs up but is quieter with the hood down. This baby runs on three-phase electric so that’s pretty cool. I’ve never had an electric vehicle before. Well, maybe cool is not the operative word since this convertible has a built in hot tub and sauna!

No, it is not a car, a motorcycle, a train or one of those monster sized mobile homes with jacuzzi and fireplace. Nor will I drive it on the road. But the top flips up and down so I figure it is a convertible or the closest I have any desire to buy. I’m not big into cars. Keep in mind that the vehicle I drive is a John Deere tractor – no cab, no radio, no GPS, some dents. Holly drives our “boat”, the extended body cargo van for deliveries – that baby’s as long as our house, almost. No, this convertible is a stay-at-home sort of electric conveyance. It goes round and round but never goes anywhere. Riddle me that.

When I ordered the convertible Holly said, “Happy Birthday.” This “convertible birthday present for me” is a pig washing machine, if you want to get picky. And picky it definitely gets. You put the dirty pig in (dead & bled) and close the lid. Three minutes later out comes the pig – shiny, clean and white. Hairy today, smooth a moment later. It’s a pig plucker.

Walter’s Stainless Steel Convertible
Koch JWE Baumann BM 20 S Combination Hog Scalder & Dehairer

In June our son Will and I went down to Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Mass to spend a day watching it in action. Sidney and the guys put about 80 pigs through in a few hours time. It was amazing. They were fast. The pigs looked great coming out of the machine. Everything flowed smoothly. They said it was by far the best machine they had ever had for dehairing and that’s saying a lot as they’ve been doing it for decades with different machines and by hand – every way it goes. They’ve had the BM20S for over two and a half years – enough time to give it a real workout. It still looks to be in excellent condition after all the pigs they put through it. It was great talking with them about it and watching it in action. We walked into the day very dubious about getting it. We walked out of there drooling. Koch Industries owes the folks at Adams a commission on the sale of our machine! We were hooked. Speed, quality, capability. And it comes in stainless steel.

Yes, it really does cost $40,000. It is the most expensive piece of equipment in our meat processing facility. It costs as much as 25% of everything else in our project put together. It costs about half of our entire equipment budget. It almost costs as much as our tractor. Yowsa! To say we agonized over whether or not to buy this shiny stainless steel convertible is to understate it. We’ve been chewing on this decision for months and then figuring out how to pay for it by not buying some other things which we’ll wait on until later.

Why buy such an expensive machine you ask?

  1. It saves us a tremendous amount of time.
  2. It allows us to do almost the full range of pigs.
  3. The time saved we can put toward doing more construction, building the smokehouse, follies, etc.
  4. The BM20S gets the pigs shiny clean so we can sell more of the pig. That means more income per pig and less waste per pig. Fully using the pigs pays for the machine quickly.
  5. Scalding and scraping instead of skinning allows us to sell types of cuts that we would not otherwise be able to do such as skin on, feet, heads, ears, trotters, etc.
  6. It lets us do roasters easily – a big market for us. Once again it pays for the machine.
  7. Most machines like this do limited ranges of pigs such as 50-to-125 lb pigs or 100-to-500 lb pigs. We need a range of 30 lbs and up. That covers all of our roasters plus our weekly cutter pigs and monthly smaller sows. We don’t have room for two machines in our small space.
  8. Two wrong machines would cost more to buy, more to house, more to run and more to maintain than one right machine. It’s the right tool for the job.
  9. It is very compact so it fits in our small facility without taking up much space. Many dehairers have a separate scalding vat and scraper. The BM20S has it all in one compact unit. Imagine those small European sports cars with a German engine under the hood.

Why not get a used one?

  1. Try finding one – I looked, for years and only found a few in all that time.
  2. The ones I did find were not what I needed – with one exception which had already sold “AS-IS” by the time I found it.
  3. I need one that works – all the time, not one that has been sitting for four years and is sold “AS-IS” (above unit) with worn out paddles that will need replacing (known issue) and likely worn out bearing padding seals plus who knows what condition the motor and bearings are in after sitting four that long.
  4. The other used models I found only did abbreviated ranges – the full range machine is rare since this is a specialty market.

I’m a strong believer in making do with what I have but conversely having the right tool for the job. There are critical times when having the right tool for the job makes a huge difference. This is one of those times. Chainsaws work better than gnawing up the winter’s firewood with my teeth – despite what my beaver friends say. Buying a tractor was another one of those times for us. The tractor was a similarly huge purchase, just a little bigger than this in fact. We’ve been very glad to have the tractor and it has allowed us to do things we would not otherwise have done – like moving mountains.

I considered building my own dehairer. I designed several from handheld units up to big ones like this. But after doing the math I came to the conclusion that it was better to get this unit up and running doing pigs now than to go through the process of building our own. The savings of building my own were not big enough. The raw materials to build the machine are expensive – it is stainless steel with big powerful motors. Time and money vs money. The balance came out to buy.

This isn’t just any old toy, it will save us over 750 hours of our time a year compared with scalding and scraping by hand. That’s like adding over three years to our lives. What would you pay to live an extra year? I’m not talking end of life either – I’m talking about making every year longer by 750 hours of quality time for the three of us – that’s almost 250 hours extra each or five hours more time per week in our lives. I get an extra 10 days a year in my life! What kind of trouble can we get into with kind of extra time on our hands?

I’ve seen other scalders and dehairers in action. I was not impressed. In fact, seeing them had made me pretty much convinced that doing it by hand was better. Most machines just do the easy work leaving the hard to do faces, feet, under arms and such for the humans. Not so with this one. Very hairy pigs went in – Virtually hairless clean pigs came out. The guys at Adams just needed to remove the nails, clean the ears and eyes and do a light check over the rest of the pig before the quick flame polish. None of the back-and-forth in-and-out of the scalding tank for a second, third or fourth run that I’m used to.

As an added bonus this is the quietest dehairer I’ve met. Very surprising. Think about it: This machine is tumble washing a 300 lb pig, vigorously. It should be loud – very loud. The others I’ve heard are extremely loud. In fact, as Holly had noted on seeing one, it shook the building – literally.

The BM20S is hand made out of stainless steel in Germany. It is a specialty tool for a specialty market. As a result there aren’t very many makers of tools like this in the world. Hand crafting and low production runs are part of the reason for the high cost. There is a galvanized version that costs a little less but the stainless steel will last longer and is easier to clean thus saving more time and giving a more sanitary work area – we’re dealing with food. Clean is the name of the game.

So we went with stainless steel. We’re putting in stainless steel where ever possible in our facility. All of our overhead rails will be stainless steel including the sockets into the concrete ceilings. After stainless steel comes epoxy on concrete and Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP). All durable and easy to clean. Because our facility is so small it means we use less materials and can afford to use better materials than if we built a big space. It’s the same idea behind our tiny cottage. Quality, not quantity.

So, after months of gnashing our teeth about whether or not to buy it I bit the bullet and send in the purchase agreement with the $20,000 deposit. Our unit is now on order and should arrive in December. Now I just need a place to put it – a finished Sugar Mountain Farm Meat Processing Facility a.k.a. The Butcher Shop. We’re working on that.

Update: Baumann Here!

Outdoors: 73°F/50°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/64°F

Daily Spark: A Chinese physician might be called a Pekin Doc.

*Very functional, skilled, hard working arm candy – Quality German Engineering.

Shiny, white and clean – did you know that all pigs are white? Even colored pigs are white once they’ve been dehaired (scald & scrape). The coloration is just a thin coating of pigmentation in the top layer of the skin. Sometimes darker hairs on brunette pigs show up, very noticeable against the now white skin. But deep down we’re all whities beneath our pigmentation layers.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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16 Responses to Stainless Steel Convertible

  1. Beth Stoneking says:

    Hey Walter, just wondering.. what style of roof is going on the shop? And what special insulating factors. Can’t wait to see the roof start to take shape!

    • Ah, the roof will remain a mystery for a while. That is to say, I haven’t decided. I have several designs and am building such that I can go with any of them. Structurally it will be concrete and a vault. I’m toying with earth sheltering it. Or maybe I’ll cover it with solar collectors. I’ve not yet decided. We will use a lot of hot water so I’m looking at the various ways I can best preheat that. As to insulation, lots plus an air gap. I’ve threatened to make it look like a castle with crenels and merlons. Or a skateboard park / ice rink. Hmm… Think the world’s only combination USDA slaughterhouse and skateboard park. :) You think I’m joking…

      The ceilings on the other hand are vaults and already the formwork is taking shape. The chiller ceiling is a classic barrel vault (Roman arch). The cutting room and kitchen are buttressed catenary arches with center beams for added strength where the rail runs.

  2. karl says:

    The right tool for the job is almost always the right choice. Solar hot water and a wood fired boiler would be a good match. creating a bit more ash for your spring fields would be a bonus too.

    An interesting product worth reading about, our company just became the cogenra certified installer. Hot water and electricity from the same system.

    Please post about your final solar plan before you get locked in. I am happy to help and get some of my colleagues input for your system.

  3. mellifera says:

    That’s great! It can be very difficult to find the appropriate tools for specialized jobs– glad you guys could track one down. (And that you let us know where to find one too. ; )

  4. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Walter, I suggest that thermocouples could generate electricity from wood fires. Embedding them in some ceramic surrounding a fire chamber might work well. Fireclay?

    And, grimly, on the shallowness of the melanin in us, I once watched a formerly black marine being pulled out of a hole that had been hit by a white phosphorus round from the NVA while we were being shelled during a monsoon downpour. I’d known him, but it took a bit to recognize the poor pale corpse. He was almost ivory colored. At least his end was quick. Color differences are only skin deep.

    • I have a bunch of thermal-couples and Peltier devices I’ve been playing with but found the efficiency very poor. These are technologies that I see as having a lot of potential but it looks like we have a long ways to go on the implementation.

      I am sad to hear of the marine. I hope his end was instantaneous and he didn’t suffer.

  5. Mel says:

    Nice piece of equipment. There’s really something to be said for having the right tool for the job, and choosing the very highest quality you can find. Do you have an estimate for how long it’ll take to pay for itself?

  6. Jasmine says:

    Cute walter, very very cute! You really led me on. Holly is lucky arm candy to have you and your lucky to have her! I love the overhead photograph of your butchershop that is at the top. It shows all the stages of construction. Really ex!

  7. Melanie says:

    Have you ever thought about getting the on-demand water heater.
    They might work in your shop or they might not.

    It’s just an option that could work out better than a regular water heater

    • That’s the plan. Actually we’ll be using a heat exchanger to capture the heat from our refrigeration system to pre-warm our cold mountain spring water. Then it will go through one on-demand water heater to bring it up to about 140°F for tap use and then a second on-demand water heater to bring it up to the USDA required 180°F for some uses in sanitization and such. The propane tank for this went in the other week.

  8. Andy says:

    Amazing machine. I’m really looking forward to our roaster pig!

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