Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
CARCASS PROCESSING SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/039638
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
This invention relates to a carcass processing system which according to a preferred aspect of the invention there is provided a conveyor configured to convey viscera from an animal carcass wherein the conveyor includes a number of individual pans suspended from an overhead conveying system, the conveyor characterised in that the conveyor has pans positioned at two or more heights relative to the ground.

Inventors:
WALKER, Brent, Maitland (Level 12 KPMG Centre,85 Alexandra Street,Private Bag 314, Waikato Mail Centre Hamilton 3204, 3204, NZ)
Application Number:
NZ2015/050132
Publication Date:
March 17, 2016
Filing Date:
September 08, 2015
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
MILMEQ LIMITED (Level 12 KPMG Centre,85 Alexandra Street,Private Bag 314, Waikato Mail Centre Hamilton 3204, 3204, NZ)
International Classes:
A22C18/00; A22C17/00; A22C21/00; A22C25/00; B65G17/16; B65G47/34; B65G47/40
Domestic Patent References:
WO2006010220A12006-02-02
Foreign References:
US4090275A1978-05-23
US20050279613A12005-12-22
SU821341A11981-04-15
DE4430055A11996-02-29
CN203633410U2014-06-11
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WILSON, Kathryn et al. (James & Wells, Private Bag 3140Hamilton 3240,New Zealan, Hamilton 3240, 3240, NZ)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IT CLAIMS IS:

1. A conveyor configured to convey viscera from an animal carcass wherein

the conveyor includes a number of individual pans suspended from an overhead conveying system,

the conveyor characterised in that

the conveyor has pans positioned at two or more heights relative to the ground.

2. A conveyor as claimed in claim 1 wherein the conveyor is positioned substantially in the horizontal plane.

3. A conveyor as claimed in either claim 1 or 2 wherein the conveyor is positioned in a continuous loop.

4. A conveyor as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 3 wherein the continuous loop is shaped so as to have an apex with a smaller radius of curvature than that at its base.

5. A conveyor as claimed in any one of claims 1 to4 wherein the pans are pivotally

connected to a cradle that is suspended from the overhead conveying system.

6. A conveyor as claimed in claim 5 wherein the pans are configured to pivot 180 degrees from the horizontal plane.

7. A conveyor as claimed in either one of claims 5 or 6 wherein the pans are configured to pivot up to 35 degrees from the vertical plane.

8. A conveyor as claimed in any one of claims 1 to7 wherein the conveyor runs via a bi- planar chain.

9. A conveyor as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 8 wherein each pan can be moved between multiple heights relative to the ground.

10. A conveyor as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 9 wherein the gondola has four stations along its track at which the pans are stopped,

11. A conveyor as claimed in claim 10 wherein the four stations are:

a) a loading station;

b) a viscera inspection station;

c) a discharge station; and

d) a sterilisation station.

12. A conveyor as claimed in either one of claims 10 or 11 wherein the relative heights of the pans relative the floor vary according to which station they are closest to.

13. A conveyor as claimed in any one of claims 10 to 12 wherein the relative heights of the pans relative to the floor are in the order of:

a) 0.5 - 1 meter at the loading station;

b) 1 - 1.5 meters at the viscera inspection station;

c) 1.5 meters at the discharge station; and

d) 1.5 meters at the sterilisation station.

14. A conveyor substantially as herein described with reference to and as illustrated by the drawings and description in the Best Modes Section.

Description:
CARCASS PROCESSING SYSTEM

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to a carcass processing system along with an associated method of operation.

BACKGROUND ART

Carcass processing usually involves highly complex systems with a number of considerations which must be met.

These considerations include; · Efficient dressing of the carcass including removal of the head, feet, hide, excess fat, viscera and offal.

• A fully hygienic system which prevents cross contamination.

• The ability to inspect the dressed carcass and the removed parts to determine if a

carcass is to be condemned. · The ability to trace the removed parts to a dressed carcass so that the carcass and all parts can be discarded if contamination is identified.

• Minimal strain on workers.

In a traditional system, a beef carcass is dressed after exsanguination to leave only the bones and edible muscle behind. Usually, the viscera are manually lifted out of the carcass cavity and placed into a wheelbarrow like device called a gut buggy.

The viscera is then manually inspected. If conditions are detected that requires a carcass to be condemned, then the meat inspector needs to then ensure that the carcass from which the viscera originated is also condemned or appropriately processed. This requires a buggy to be manually moved to the appropriate offal chute and the offal tipped out of the buggy. The buggy then needs to be relocated manually to a sterilisation station.

It can be seen that the above operation has a number of manual steps and a number of steps in the process where sloppy handling can lead to contamination. Obviously, this is undesirable.

An alternative method to the use of gut buggies is to have a linear conveyor of eviscerator pans linked in a continuous loop and permanently installed alongside the carcass processing chain. This conveyor is normally synchronised with the processing chain to ensure that each pan advances at the same rate as carcasses along the chain. This enables each pan presented to coincide with the removal of the viscera from the carcass cavity. The conveyor then advances the viscera to an inspection station where again the viscera is inspected manually. Should the viscera be condemned, it is left in the tray and automatically tipped out as the tray reaches the end of the conveyor.

As the trays form a continuous loop, the conveyor requires twice as many trays as are visible at any time on the top of the conveyor. An automated cleaning system to sterilise each tray between animals is also required.

It can be seen that this system also can lead to contamination occurring with viscera in the pans capable of slopping over into each other. Plus, the viscera can also drop into the mechanics of the conveyor system leading to sterilisation problems.

Further, this system is equipment heavy requiring multiple pans and a large footprint on the factory floor.

It is an object of the present invention to address the foregoing problems or at least to provide the public with a useful choice.

All references, including any patents or patent applications cited in this specification are hereby incorporated by reference. No admission is made that any reference constitutes prior art. The discussion of the references states what their authors assert, and the applicants reserve the right to challenge the accuracy and pertinency of the cited documents. It will be clearly understood that, although a number of prior art publications are referred to herein, this reference does not constitute an admission that any of these documents form part of the common general knowledge in the art, in New Zealand or in any other country.

Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, throughout the description and the claims, the words "comprise", "comprising", and the like, are to be construed in an inclusive sense as opposed to an exclusive or exhaustive sense, that is to say, in the sense of "including, but not limited to".

Further aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the ensuing description which is given by way of example only.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

According to a preferred aspect of the present invention there is provided a conveyor configured to convey viscera from an animal carcass wherein the conveyor includes a number of individual pans suspended from an overhead conveying system, the conveyor characterised in that the conveyor has pans positioned at two or more heights relative to the ground. According to another aspect of the present invention there is provided a carcass processing system which includes a first conveyor configured to convey carcasses, and a second conveyor configured to convey viscera from the animal carcasses, the carcass processing system characterised in that the second conveyor is indexed to the first conveyor, and the second conveyor is on a separate and divergent path from that of the first conveyor.

In some embodiments the conveyor for use in the carcass processing system for the transport of viscera is nonlinear in design.

According to another aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of operating a carcass processing system characterised by the steps of a) transporting a carcass via a conveyor, and b) stopping the conveyor in order to remove viscera from the carcass, and c) transferring the viscera to a second conveyor, and d) transporting the carcass on the first conveyor to an inspection station, and e) transporting the viscera via the second conveyor to an inspection station, and f) separately transporting the carcass and the viscera to a destination determined by the results of the inspection, and the method characterised in that the second conveyor is indexed to the first conveyor but on a divergent path therefrom. The present invention addresses a number of problems with the prior art by having a second conveyor for the viscera that takes the viscera away from the carcass, but still manages to have traceability on account of the indexing of the conveyors with respect to each other.

It should be appreciated that the present invention has many more advantages which will become apparent from the following description. While it is envisaged that the present invention will have application to carcasses from many species, it is felt the present invention will have particular application to the processing of beef having regard to current industry practice and the large size of the animal.

It is envisaged that the first conveyor (now referred to as a carcass conveyor) used to transport the carcass (with and/or without viscera) could be one that is commonly used in the industry such as a main dressing chain (standard rail-based skid carrier). However, this is not meant to be seen as limiting .

Likewise, the second conveyor (now referred to as a viscera conveyor) can have many forms.

In one embodiment, the viscera conveyor may be positioned substantially in the horizontal plane but in a continuous loop. The viscera conveyor could be oriented in the processing plant so that only a relatively small portion of the viscera conveyor is in proximity to the carcass conveyor sufficient enough to enable the transfer of viscera from a carcass on the carcass conveyor to the viscera conveyor.

In one aspect of the present invention the viscera conveyor is of a considerably different design to that conventionally used in processing plants.

The viscera conveyor may be configured to have a number of viscera receiving pans which are suspended from a conveying apparatus situated above the pans. This configuration will be now referred to as a gondola conveyor.

It should be appreciated that the prior art does not allow an operator to readily take the full gut set out of the carcass into a pan without risking it dropping onto the floor.

It should be appreciated that in general the offal (paunch) is transferred largely whole in a single mass. Therefore in preferred embodiments the pan is designed to enable the paunch to either hit the pan's centre of gravity or slide quickly thereto.

In summary, the shape of the pan in accordance with a preferred embodiment has the following features:

Central supporting shaft for the pan keeps out of the way while still ensuring balance around the vertical centre of gravity

Bottom sloped, guiding offal to centre of pan and the centre of gravity

Bottom shaped to divert gut set back to centre of gravity in presence of

perturbations/displacements/sudden impacts

- Spout to direct contents when auto tipping

- Smooth sides to prevent catching and tearing of gut set Smooth surfaces to eliminate points of build-up and biofilms

- Thickness of metal designed to retain an optimal temperature of cleaning, taking into account body temp of animal, temp of cleaning water, and so forth

It should be appreciated that when dropping the gut set from the carcass into the pan, two full degrees of freedom are needed in the horizontal plane to enable the pan to be moved under the carcass to catch the gut set. The pan is preferably designed to be centring so the gut set is retained in the centre of the pan. Any tipping (horizontal rotation) or rotating around the vertical axis, along with any vertical height adjustment, needs to be fully prevented during this step to ensure the cut set is fully captured and retained in the pan. Specifically preferred versions of the key features that secures the gut set transfer and facilitate inspection may have the following features:

Tray centrally balances so a gut set that is highly fluid in its shape size and centre of gravity is retained in the tray.

A vertical mounting bar that can be easily moved on a horizontal plane to ensure successful loading without spilling

Multiple heights allowing the gut set to be presented at the appropriate working height for each of the key operations (filling, sorting, emptying, sterilising)

Rotatable to enable it to be presented for the key tasks

Tray rigid enough to prevent vibrations, oscillations in the presence of sudden impacts. It is envisaged that in some embodiments the pans will be configured to tilt and/or swing.

Therefore a pan design that has the paunch in its centre of gravity will minimise unwanted movement during and immediately after loading.

In preferred embodiments the gondola conveyor is formed in a continuous loop. Thus, the gondola conveyor can have a pan that presents at an intersection point (loading station) with the carcass conveyor to receive the viscera. Then, the pan and carcass can be conveyed respectively to inspection, disposal and sterilisation stations.

The time that a single pan can traverse the loop of the gondola conveyor is of course dependent on the time required for the key steps of capture, inspection, disposal and sterilisation. However, it is possible with the present invention to have the second conveyor travel at twice the speed or more of previous linear conveyors. If so, then a reduced number of pans is required compared to the linear system. The gondola conveyor can be configured to aid other aspects of the meat processing. For example, as discussed above, the gondola conveyor can have multiple heights at which the pans are held depending on the step in the process to which the pan is being subjected.

For example, it is desirable for the pan to be relatively low to enable easy loading of the viscera from the carcass to enable the gut set to be placed in the pan largely by way of gravity while also minimising the distance and impact so as to minimise splash and to prevent bursting of the stomach and the spread of stomach contents.

However for inspection, the pan needs to be at a greater height above ground to enable manual inspection at a comfortable level. Inspection involves manual interaction with the gut set to enable the inspector to view all parts of the gut set.

Thus at this stage the pan can have freedom around the vertical axis (ie rotation) as well as height adjustment to facilitate inspection and sortation of edible offals.

While it is envisaged that the present invention is used primarily to inspect stomach contents (paunch) it is possible that the pans can also transport 'red offal', either on separate pans or in a separate compartment or a pan holding the paunch.

This greater height is also desirable when unloading the viscera to assist with product flow of the offal by way of gravity and to also accommodate the tipping of the trays without coming into contact with the floor.

At the final stage, the vertical rotation and horizontal freedom needs to be locked but the horizontal rotation enabled so the pan tips its remaining contents into the correct location without swinging on its single vertical support shaft.

For sterilisation it is preferred that the pan is at a height sufficient to accommodate floor- mounted sterilisation and also to enable any condemned offal to be dropped into a gravity mounted disposal chute. The pan will preferably be retained in its fully tipped state so the water jets do not move it and the cleaning water and remaining protein are washed away into the wash chute and do not end up on the floor

Purely as an example, the typical respective heights at which the pans are from the ground at the various stations is as follows · Loading - 0-5 - 1 metre

• Inspection - 1 - 1.5 metres

• Unloading - 1.5 metres • Sterilisation - 1.5 metres

In some embodiments, the continuous loop is shaped so as to have an apex with a smaller radius of curvature than that at its base. It is envisaged that the apex is situated at the loading point (adjacent to the carcass conveyor). This minimises space taken up when close to the carcass chain for maximum flexibility of manual operation and therefore reduced Health and Safety issues.

By having a path divergent to the carcass conveyor, the system is flexible allowing as many pans as desired and any route desired for the viscera conveyor.

It is envisaged that in some embodiments the overhead conveyor will be chain driven. This makes the chain easy to synchronise with the carcass chain by way of direct or electronic linkage with the main dressing conveyor drive. In this way, stoppages on the carcass chain also stop the eviscerator chain, ensuring that synchronisation is maintained over a full shift and in the presence of chain stoppages.

Thus in a representative system each tray on the carcass conveyor can be locked into each station and each pan locked into position until the system enables movement to the next station - ensuring synchronisation of viscera with carcass. This ensures that the viscera is not dispatched until the carcass is graded.

One of the advantages of having a gondola conveyor is that it reduces potential contamination sites. Firstly, a system which is suspended from above removes clutter from ground level and therefore reduces the areas that require regular cleaning. Further, by having separate pans, cross contamination is unlikely as the pans are separated and do not abut each other as they do on a flatbed conveyor. Further, any spillage from the pans will be downwards on to the floor, rather than into the conveyor mechanism as with a linear conveyor. Therefore, such spillage can be readily cleaned. In operation, it is thought that one embodiment of the present invention could work as follows a) An animal carcass moves along the carcass conveyor which stops at a loading point adjacent to the viscera conveyor. A pan from the viscera conveyor is at a height from the ground that makes manual removal of the viscera from the carcass and on to the pan at its lowest position readily achievable. b) Both the carcass conveyor and viscera conveyor move their respective carcass and viscera pans to inspection stations where the conveyors stop again. At this stage the pan is at a higher level to allow ready inspection. This conveyor movement is indexed to each other, most commonly by way of electronic control. A key concern is to ensure that the pan does not come in contact with the carcass but to ensure that the two conveyors advance in unison. c) If both inspections of the carcass and viscera (in most cases the head will be inspected as well, but this as a separate operation) suggests that meat can be suitable for use, then the viscera is moved by the gondola conveyor to a disposal station where the pan is tilted to off load the viscera. d) Then the pan moves onto a sterilisation station, ready for presentation to the loading station again. e) If at any of the inspection stations it is deemed that the carcass be condemned, then viscera is retained in the pan when the pan reaches the disposal station, the pan does not tip but retains the viscera until it reaches the sterilisation chamber. The condemned viscera is disposed down an inedible disposal chute within the sterilisation chamber and tips viscera down the offal chute to keep viscera separate from the non-condemned viscera in conjunction with the tipping of the tray and the automated sterilisation process. n be seen that the present invention has a number of potential advantages. · A divergent path means that there is less chance of contamination between the carcass line and the viscera conveyor.

• Separates offal processing from carcass processing while retaining synchronisation

• Different angles of presenting the offal trays to provide more ergonomic and safe work practices · No chance of contamination onto drive/conveyor frame

• Guttee can use his/her foot to swing pan into place under carcass and it then swings back once viscera is in pan. It is envisaged the gondola pan may be highly

maneuverable during loading - swinging up to 35 degrees from the vertical and is easily rotated 180 degrees in the horizontal plane · A gondola system removes clutter from ground level minimising potential contamination points in areas that require cleaning.

• A reduced footprint is possible, particularly if the chain of the viscera conveyor can travel at a quicker rate than the carcass conveyor.

• Suspended pans can be easily moved to present offal for capture, inspection, disposal and sterilisation.

• If the viscera is condemned, then it can be readily disposed of via an offal chute within the sterilisation cabinet. • There is less chance of cross contamination between the pans as they are separated.

• It is relatively easy to synchronise the two conveyors with each other.

• Dual and multiple height of the pans provide better working conditions - particularly for gut set transfer and inspection. · Greater room around the load point reduces Health and Safety issues.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Further aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the ensuing description which is given by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 is an isometric view of a gondola conveyor in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 2 is a schematic view of showing the operation of one aspect of the present

invention.

BEST MODES FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Figure 1 illustrates one embodiment of a gondola conveyor in accordance with the present invention as generally indicated by arrow 1 .

The gondola conveyor (1 ) has an overhead conveying track (2), under which is suspended a number of viscera pans (3).

The viscera pans (3) are held within a cradle (4) which is suspended via a strut (5) from the conveyor (2). The pans (3) are pivotally connected to the cradle (4) so that the pans can tip as shown in the dotted outline when discharging their contents. The tipping mechanism is integral with the conveyor system. When the pans (3) reach a certain location on the conveyor (2) they are tipped automatically. Every pan (3) tips at both unloading and sterilisation station unless side is graded and carcass condemned - then the control system overrides the tipping mechanism by way of and override.

The conveyor (2) runs via a typical standard bi-planar chain.

Figure 2 illustrates a plan view of the conveyor (1 ) in position with respect to a carcass conveyor (20). It can be seen that the apex (21 ) of the asymmetric conveyor (1 ) is positioned in close proximity to the loading station (22) on the carcass conveyor (20). The gondola (1) has three additional key stations along its track at which the pans are stopped. There is the viscera inspection point (23), the discharge point (24) and the sterilisation point (25). A offal chute (26) is positioned in close proximity to the sterilisation point (25) so that it can be readily moved into the sterilisation chamber (not shown) and receive condemned viscera from the pans (3).

Referring back to Figure 1 it can be seen that the relative heights of the pans vary according to which station they are closest to. For example, the pan (3) is at the lowest point at the apex

(21 ) as this enables easy transfer of the viscera from the carcass to the pan. At the viscera inspection point (23), the pan is higher allowing for ready manual inspection. The main reasons for the varying heights are ergonomics and practicality. When receiving viscera, the pan is positioned at a height that minimises the impact of the viscera hitting the pan in order to reduce splatter, minimise manual work and minimise the chance of the viscera missing the pan and hitting the floor. The rise to an ergonomic height for inspection, tipping and sterilisation allows sterilisation and condemned chute to fit beneath without extending below floor level.

In operation, the gondola conveyor (1) moves a pan (3) via the chain (2) to the loading point

(22) on the carcass conveyor (20). The pan is at its lowest point allowing for ready transfer of viscera from the carcass on the conveyor (20) to the pan (3).

Movement of the conveyor (20) and the gondola conveyor (1 ) is indexed and therefore the carcass moves to an inspection station (not shown) at the same time as the viscera moves to a holding/inspection/processing station (23). Both conveyors stop contemporaneously.

At this point the pan is at a higher level allowing ready inspection

Inspection of the viscera (in conjunction with inspection of the head which is removed from the carcass and on a separate conveyor close to the inspection station (23) is one step in the assessment undertaken to determine whether the carcass and its dressings are to be condemned.

Dependent on how many carcass processing stations there are between the removal of the viscera from the carcass and the carcass grading station, there will be one or more holding positions between locations (23) and (24) to ensure that the carcass is graded before the viscera reaches the offload station. This ensures the correct decision regarding offloading the viscera at station (24) is made. If the carcass is deemed to be suitable for consumption, then the pan (3) is moved to the discharge station (24) and tilted to remove the viscera therefrom.

Following that action the pan is then moved into a sterilisation chamber at point (25), after which it then moves back to the apex (21 ) adjacent to the loading station (22). If at point (23) it is determined that the carcass is to be condemned, then the pan (3) moves through to the sterilisation chamber without tipping at the discharge point (24). The offal chute (26) also moves to the sterilisation chamber. In the chamber the pan is tilted so that the condemned viscera can enter the offal chute. The pan is then sterilised and moved to loading point (21 ).

The entire disclosures of all applications, patents and publications cited above and below, if any, are herein incorporated by reference.

Reference to any prior art in this specification is not, and should not be taken as, an acknowledgement or any form of suggestion that that prior art forms part of the common general knowledge in the field of endeavour in any country in the world.

The invention may also be said broadly to consist in the parts, elements and features referred to or indicated in the specification of the application, individually or collectively, in any or all combinations of two or more of said parts, elements or features.

Where in the foregoing description reference has been made to integers or components having known equivalents thereof, those integers are herein incorporated as if individually set forth.

It should be noted that various changes and modifications to the presently preferred embodiments described herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention and without diminishing its attendant advantages. It is therefore intended that such changes and modifications be included within the present invention.

Aspects of the present invention have been described by way of example only and it should be appreciated that modifications and additions may be made thereto without departing from the scope thereof as defined in the appended claims.