Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
MEAT SLICING METHOD
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/011760
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A beef portion is sliced to finished product slices by a) providing a beef portion having an initial shape; and chilling the beef portion to a core temperature of from 30°F. to 32°F. and a surface temperature of from above 25°F. to 28°F. Pressure is then applied to the chilled beef portion to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in a manner that does not damage interior structure of the beef portion. The thus reshaped beef portion is deposited into a shape-retention form having a receiving volume generally corresponding to the shape of the reshaped beef portion, and sliced into finished product slices while in the shape-retention form.

More Like This:
Inventors:
DOWN, Bradley Dunkin (280 Northcrest Drive, Newnan, Georgia, 30265, US)
NORRIS, Davey Shannon (25 Wildwood Court, Newnan, Georgia, 30265, US)
PERRY, Evan (38 Red Oak Trail, Sharpsburg, Georgia, 30277, US)
RAYMOND, Donald R. (71 Kory Drive, Newnan, Georgia, 30263, US)
WEBB, Jill D. (7980 Campbellton Redwine Road, Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, 30268, US)
Application Number:
US2016/042527
Publication Date:
January 19, 2017
Filing Date:
July 15, 2016
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
CARGILL, INCORPORATED (15407 McGinty Road West, Wayzata, Minnesota, 55391, US)
International Classes:
A22C18/00; A23B4/037; A23B4/06; B65B25/06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MALILAY, Grace P. (15407 McGinty Road West, Wayzata, Minnesota, 55391, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A process for slicing a beef portion to finished product slices comprising:

a) providing a beef portion having an initial shape;

b) chilling the beef portion to a core temperature of from 30° F. to 32° F. and a surface temperature of from above 25° F. to 28° F.;

c) applying pressure to the beef portion to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in a manner that does not damage interior structure of the beef portion;

d) depositing the reshaped beef portion into a shape-retention form having a receiving volume generally corresponding to the shape of the reshaped beef portion; and

e) slicing the reshaped beef portion into finished product slices while in the shape-retention form.

2. The process of claim 1, wherein the chilling takes place in a chiller having a temperature of above about -60° F.

3. The process of claim 1, wherein the chilling takes place in a chiller having a temperature of from about -60° F. to about 32° F.

4. The process of claim 1, wherein the chilling takes place in a chiller having a temperature of from about-60° F. to about -4° F. 5. The process of claim 1 , wherein the chilling takes place in a chiller having a temperature of from about -60° F. to about -40° F.

6. The process of any of claims 1-5, wherein the chilling takes place for a time of from about 15 to 35 minutes.

7. The process of any of claims 1-5, wherein the chilling takes place for a time of from about 18 to about 25 minutes.

8. The process of any of claims 1-7, wherein the reshaped beef portion has a longitudinal axis, and the reshaped beef portion varies in length no more than 5%, in any dimension perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the reshaped beef portion. 9. The process of any of claims 1-7, wherein the reshaped beef portion has a longitudinal axis, and the reshaped beef portion varies in length no more than 3%, in any dimension perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the reshaped beef portion.

10. The process of any of claims 1 -7, wherein the reshaped beef portion has a longitudinal axis, and the reshaped beef portion varies in length no more than 1%, in any dimension perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the reshaped beef portion.

11. The process of any of claims 1-10, wherein the finished product slices vary no more than 3% in any dimension.

12. The process of any of claims 1-10, wherein the finished product slices vary no more than 1% in any dimension.

13. The process of any of claims 1-10, wherein the finished product slices vary no more than 0.5% in any dimension.

14. The process of any of claims 1-13, wherein the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in any given dimension is less than about 10 bar.

15. The process of any of claims 1-13, wherein the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in any given dimension is from about 0.75 bar to about 3 bar. 16. The process of any of claims 1-15, wherein the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion is applied for a time of about 1 to about 4 seconds.

17. The process of any of claims 1-15, wherein the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion is applied for a time of about 12 to about 3 seconds. 18. The process of any of claims 1-15, wherein the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion is applied for a time of about 1.5 to about 2.5 seconds.

19. The process of any of claims 1-15, wherein the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion is applied for a time of about 1.7 to about 2.2 seconds.

20. The process of any of claims 1-19, wherein the slicing is carried out using a cutting blade that is not reversed in direction while in contact with the beef portion.

21. The process of any of claims 1-19, wherein the cutting blade has a curved cutting edge.

22. The process of any of claims 1-19, wherein the cutting blade has a blade body is ovoid or elliptical in shape, and is eccentrically mounted to an axel.

23. The process of claim 22, wherein the cutting blade is driven on the axel, and imparts a shearing motion to the shaped beef portion in a single pass cut. 24. The process of any of claims 1 -19, wherein the process is carried out as part of a commercial production system wherein at least about 1500 lbs of beef portions are sliced to finished product slices per hour in a single operation line.

25. The process of any of claim 1-19, wherein the process is carried out as part of a commercial production system wherein at least about 6000 lbs of beef portions are sliced to finished product slices per hour in a single line operation.

Description:
MEAT SLICING METHOD

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Pat. App. No. 62/192,870, filed July 15, 2015, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to slicing meat. More specifically, the present invention relates to slicing beef to provide individual portions.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Beef has long been an important protein source for the human diet. Excellent cuts of beef are highly valued, and preparation techniques are important in presentation. For this reason, many people purchase expertly cut beef from a butcher because of the visual appeal of the clean cut and care taken to provide uniform, quality cuts of beef.

Over the years, butchers have developed specific techniques to cleanly cut finished product slices. Butchers typically start with large portions of beef, such as primal or subprimal portions, and carefully slice beef by hand. Historically, butcher seeking to prepare a high quality cut of finished product beef slices would tightly wrap the beef portion in a plastic wrap and allow it to temper in a freezer for a given amount of time to cool, but not freeze, the beef. The muscle would then be held firmly on a butcher block, and steaks were cut with a single motion from a sharp knife with even pressure to ensure a clean cut. Even currently, about sixty percent of all meat in the world is cut by hand.

Commercial processing operations have been developed to more efficiently provide meat in response to demand. Commercial cutting operations now typically freeze the beef under harsh conditions prior to cutting in order to more easily cut the beef. Bulk beef customers often prefer that all steaks in their inventory are of the same general size dimensions. For example, all 10 ounce steaks preferably should have the same general dimensions of length, width and thickness. This is advantageous both for ease of predictable, uniform cooking by staff who may not be skilled in the cooking art, and for fulfilling customer expectations in uniformity of product when two customers at the same table order the same size steak.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Today's automated slicing equipment either requires beef to be frozen or "crusted" (i.e. partially frozen on the outside of the beef) in the hope that it will remain stable enough on its own to be sliced, or sawn, accurately and cleanly. This automated slicing technology provides efficiency needed to satisfy commercial volume requirements. However, the cuts provided by such automated processes do not meet demand for quality and consistency.

In the present process, a beef portion is sliced to finished product slices by a) providing a beef portion having an initial shape; and chilling the beef portion to a core temperature of from 30° F. to 32° F. and a surface temperature of from above 25° F. to 28° F. This colder surface temperature is by definition in the beef industry not cold enough so that the beef is considered to be frozen, but is sufficiently cold to provide a different appearance with viewed in cross-section. Beef that has been chilled in this manner is said to be imparted with a very slight "crust" or is slightly "crusted" due to this visibly identifiable difference. Pressure is then applied to the chilled beef portion to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in a manner that does not damage interior structure of the beef portion.

The thus reshaped beef portion is deposited into a shape-retention form having a receiving volume generally corresponding to the shape of the reshaped beef portion, and sliced into finished product slices while in the shape-retention form.

The present invention surprisingly provides an automated process capable of satisfying commercial volume requirements, while at the same time providing significant quality and consistency benefits. Beef portions prepared according to the present invention provide a significantly enhanced customer experience in the form of uniform cooking, product appearance, bite and taste. Thus, the final product not only provides highly efficient finished product beef slice production, but delivers a product that is as good or better than product that is hand prepared by butchers. It has surprisingly been discovered that beef portions having the identified surface and core temperature profile that is then prepared and sliced as described herein exhibits excellent cutting performance and shape retention properties. Beef portions that are sliced using the process described herein tend to exhibit better cohesive properties, e.g. portions do not separate at fat seams between the muscles of the beef portions. When beef portions are prepared and sliced as described herein, the beef portion tends to exhibit fewer physical signs of stress induced in the slicing process, such as formation of gaps in the finished product slices. In an embodiment, the finished product slices have a continuous cross-section that is free of gaps.

Likewise, when beef portions are prepared and sliced as described herein, the beef portion tends to exhibit fewer physical signs of tearing between the finished product slices. In an embodiment, the finished product slices are separated by a clean cut induced in the slicing operation without visible tear of the beef.

The beef portions that are chilled, pressed and formed as described herein surprisingly retain the shape imparted to them, and therefore may be cut to surprisingly uniform sizes of individual finished product slices as determined by weight. Moreover, surprisingly the individual finished product slices retain the shape imparted to them during the process, and therefore surprisingly provide a plurality of individual finished product slices sourced from the same beef portion that have a uniform size appearance as determined by dimensional measurement Tn an embodiment, a plurality of individual finished product slices sourced from the shape- retention form have a uniform size appearance as determined by dimensional measurement. The present invention therefore advantageously delivers cases of uniform finished product slices.

The present invention additionally provides benefit in safety and ergonomics by using an automated system that minimizes the need for plant workers to hand slice meat, and in particular to use their free hand to adjust the position of the meat. The resulting high quality product can be obtained in a very efficient manner. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this application, illustrate several aspects of the invention and together with a description of the embodiments serve to explain the principles of the invention. A brief description of the drawings is as follows: Figure 1 is a photograph of an example of a curved cutting blade that may be used in the process of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The embodiments of the present invention described below are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed in the following detailed description. Rather a purpose of the embodiments chosen and described is so that the appreciation and understanding by others skilled in the art of the principles and practices of the present invention can be facilitated.

The present process begins with providing a beef portion having an initial shape that is to be sliced to individual portion sizes as individual finished product slices. In an embodiment, the beef portion is a primal portion. Tn an embodiment, the beef portion is selected from chuck, brisket, shank, rib, short plate, loin, flank, and round primal portions. In an embodiment, the beef portion is a subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is a boneless subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is the ribeye subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is the tenderloin subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is the shoulder subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is the round steak subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is the chuck subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is the strip subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is the knuckle subprimal portion. In an embodiment, the beef portion is an individual muscle.

The beef portion is chilled to a core temperature of from 30° F. to 32° F. and a surface temperature of from above 25° F. to 28° F. For purposes of the present invention, the core temperature of the beef is defined as the temperature at approximately the middle of the meat portion. For purposes of the present invention, the surface temperature of the beef is defined as the temperature measured at a depth of no deeper than 4 mm from the surface of the meat. The temperature of the beef is determined by any appropriate technique. A preferred technique comprises using a needle temperature probe. To determine the core temperature, the probe is inserted in approximately the middle of the beef portion. To determine the surface temperature, the probe is inserted lengthwise along the surface of the beef at a depth of no more than 4mm into the beef portion.

The respective temperatures of the core and the surface temperatures provide significant benefits in the properties of the beef as it is reshaped and sliced.

It has been discovered that if the core temperature in particular is so high that there is an unacceptably large temperature gradient between the beef surface and the core, the beef may tear at the interface of the surface and the core areas of the beef. If on the other hand, the core temperature is too low, the beef can be adversely affected by freezing, and the quality of the beef may be reduced. Additionally, the cut will not be as precise. Finally, if the core temperature is too low, it will not be possible to reshape the beef in a manner that does not physically damage the beef.

The presently required temperature profile of the beef is achieved by chilling under controlled conditions to avoid "hard freeze" conditions. Conventional commercial scale beef handling conditions use very low chiller/freezer temperatures (e.g. -80° F. or lower) to chill the beef quickly and to achieve desired throughput rates. However, using such an aggressive chilling technique can result in formation of a hard frozen crust on the surface of the meat before the core temperature of the meat can be chilled to a desired temperature. This is particularly the case in small beef portions and in delicate and high value beef portions. Additionally, aggressive chilling of meat can easily result in freezing a substantial amount, if not all, of the meat portion. Nevertheless, more aggressive chilling conditions can advantageously be employed in the present process with careful control of chilling time for efficient production particularly in large muscle beef portions mat are less delicate, such as the chuck or knuckle beef portions.

It has been found that by chilling under comparatively mild chilling temperatures (i.e. at or above -60° F.) with longer dwell time, beef portions having the presently claimed temperature profile can be predictably achieved for all beef portions, and in particular for small beef portions and in delicate and high value beef portions.

The beef is chilled in a chilling device for a time appropriate to achieve the desired internal and surface beef temperatures as noted above. In an aspect, the beef is chilled in a chilling device having a temperature of from about -60° F. to about 32° F, or from about -60° F. to about 14° F, or from about -60° F. to about -4° F, or from about -60° F. to about -22° F, or from about -60° F. to about -40° F. In an embodiment, the beef is chilled in a chilling device having a temperature of from about -50° F. to about 32° F, or from about -50° F. to about 14° F, or from about -50° F. to about -4° F, or from about -50° F. to about -22° F, or from about -50° F to about -40° F. In an embodiment, the beef is chilled in a chilling device having a temperature of from about -40° F. to about 132° F, or from about -40° F. to about 14° F, or from about -40° F. to about -4° F, or from about -40° F. to about -22° F, or from about -40° F.

In an embodiment, the beef is placed in a static cooler and then allowed to rest for at a temperature of from about 15° F. to 25° F. for a time appropriate to achieve the desired internal and surface beef temperatures as noted above. However, while such very mild conditions could achieve the desired internal and surface beef temperatures, this embodiment is not preferred as the time required would be excessively long, and not advantageous for operation under commercial production standards.

In an embodiment, the beef is chilled in a chilling device having a temperature appropriate for achieve the desired internal and surface beef temperatures as noted above in a time of from about 15 to 35 minutes, or for a time of from about 18 to 25 minutes. The time and temperature required depends on the starting temperature and average size of the beef or, the time and temperature required varies according to the muscle of the beef. In an embodiment, the beef is chilled in a chilling device having a temperature of from about -30° F. to about 32° F., or from about -30° F. to about -14° F., or from about -30° F. to about -4° F., or from about -30° F. to about -22° F. for a time of from about 15 to about 25 minutes, or about 15 to about 20 minutes, or about 15 to about 18 minutes, or about 15 minutes.

In an embodiment, the chiller device is a tunnel chiller. It has been found that such chilling devices provides effective cooling of the beef portions while at the same time affording efficient production speed. In an embodiment, the chiller is an impingement chiller. Preferred chilling devices comprise a variable speed conveyor system to control dwell time of the meet in the chiller in order to achieve the desired beef portion temperature profile. Preferred chilling devices circulate air effectively to provide even and efficient cooling. Preferred chiller devices comprise a conveyor system that minimizes contact of the meat with a surface that could lead to uneven chilling. In an embodiment, the meat is conveyed through the chiller device on a open stainless mesh belt having a plurality of openings, for example a mesh belt comprising a plurality of one quarter inch openings. Chiller devices are commercially available, for example, from Linde Company, Ross Company, Praxair Company, CES Company, and So-Low Company.

In an embodiment of the present invention, the beef portion is a ribeye subprimal having a weight of from about 12 to about 15 pounds and dimensions of about 5 to about 7 inches by about 16 to about 20 inches by 4 to about 6 inches. In an embodiment, the ribeye subprimal is chilled at a temperature of from about -20° F. to about -30° F. for a time of from about 18 to 25 minutes.

In an embodiment of the present invention, the beef portion is a strip subprimal having a weight of from about 10 to about 14 pounds and dimensions of about 4 to about 6 inches by about IS to about 19 inches by 3 to about 6 inches. In an embodiment, the strip subprimal is chilled at a temperature of from about -20° F. to about - 30° F. for a time of from about 18 to 25 minutes.

In an embodiment of the present invention, the beef portion is a chuck subprimal having a weight of from about 25 to about 27 pounds and dimensions of about 10 to about 14 inches by about 10 to about 14 inches by 6 to about 7 inches. Tn an embodiment, the chuck subprimal is chilled at a temperature of from about -50° F. to about -60° F. for a time of from about 8 to 10 minutes.

In an embodiment of the present invention, the beef portion is a knuckle subprimal having a weight of from about 10 to about 14 pounds and dimensions of about 8 to about 12 inches by about 8 to about 12 inches by 6 to about 7 inches. In an embodiment, the knuckle subprimal is chilled at a temperature of from about -50° F. to about -60° F. for a time of from about 5 to 10 minutes.

It has been discovered that the core temperature may be adjusted within the ranges described herein depending on the characteristics of the muscle being sliced. For example, larger and muscle groups, such as the round or shoulder, are generally more durable and may benefit from chilling to a colder core temperature of about 30° F., while the more tender muscle groups such as ribeye are preferably chilled to the higher temperature of 32° F. within the discussed core temperature range.

After chilling to the indicated temperature profile, pressure is applied to the beef portion to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in a manner that does not damage interior structure of the beef portion. Tt has surprisingly been discovered that when beef portions are reshaped under pressure while at the presently indicated temperature profile, the beef portion accepts the new shape and retains this new shape even after being allowed to return to core and surface temperatures of up to 45° F., with little or no "bounce back" or return to the original shape of the beef portion. Further, even after slicing, the finished product slices retain the cross-sectional new shape that had been imparted to the beef portion. This is the case even after finished product slices are allowed to return to core and surface temperatures of up to 45° F., and the finished product slices exhibit little or no "bounce back" or return to the original cross-sectional shape of the beef portion.

Thus, the imparted shape is retained throughout distribution in ordinary beef distribution channels. In contrast, if a beef portion having a core temperature higher than the presently described temperature is reshaped by application of pressure, the beef portion will return to its original shape. For this reason, it is not effective to first press the beef portion to the desired shape and then chill the beef portion after application of pressure has been completed. Additionally, it has surprisingly been found that is not effective to first press the beef portion to the desired shape and then chill the beef portion during application of pressure or while holding the meat in a form in order to retain the shape of the reshaped meat portion.

In an embodiment, the reshaped beef portion has a longitudinal axis, and cross sections of the reshaped beef portion perpendicular to the longitudinal axis are generally uniform in size as discussed below. In an embodiment, the beef portions may be imparted a new shape having a defined cross-sectional profile perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the beef. For example, the cross section could be generally oval, rectangular, square, triangular, rectangular with one rounded side, semis- spherical, or have an irregular but predetermined shape that provides a uniform cross- sectional area in the beef portion.

In an embodiment, the cross-sectional profile is uniform for all finished product slices sliced from the reshaped beef portion. In an embodiment, one or more end portions do not precisely conform to the desires shape, and so the cross-sectional profile is uniform for at least 80% of the finished product slices sliced from the reshaped beef portion.

In an embodiment, uniformity may be determined by measuring one or more dimensions of the cross-section perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the reshaped beef portion. In an embodiment, the beef portions vary in length no more than 5%, or 3% or 1% in any dimension perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the reshaped beef portion. In an embodiment, the finished product slices vary in length no more than 3%, or 1% or 0.5% in length, width and thickness.

In an embodiment, uniformity may be determined by weighing finished product slices. In an embodiment, the finished product slices vary no more than 1.5% by weight. In an embodiment, the finished product slices vary no more than 1% by weight. In an embodiment, the finished product slices vary no more than 0.5% by weight.

In an embodiment of the present invention, the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in any given dimension is less than about 10 bar. In an embodiment, the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in any given dimension is from about 0.25 bar to about 10 bar. In an embodiment, the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in any given dimension is from about 0.5 bar to about 5 bar. In an embodiment, the pressure applied to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in any given dimension is from about 0.75 bar to about 3 bar.

The pressure may be applied by any appropriate means, for example, using a pneumatic or hydraulic plunger, movable walls, or other construction to apply pressure in each of the three dimensions (length, width, height) as needed. Pressure, duration, stroke and press time is controlled and adjusted for the particular beef portion being reshaped. In a preferred embodiment, the press operation is carried out by a machine capable of applying pressure in three dimensions with individual control of the order and amount of pressure applied in each dimension. Equipment suitable for applying pressure includes meat handling equipment commercially available from Marel Company, Ross Company and Hoegger Company.

It has been discovered that the duration of time that pressure is applied to the beef portion is important. It has surprisingly been found that applying pressure for at time of less than about 1.0 seconds results in an undesirable amount of "bounce back" or return to the original shape of the beef portion. Applying pressure for longer than about 4 seconds provides suitable retention of the desired altered shape, but results in undesirably slow production speed. Thus, an embodiment of the present invention comprises applying pressure to the beef portion to alter the shape of the beef portion from the initial shape to a reshaped beef portion in a manner that does not damage interior structure of the beef portion for a time of about 1 to about 4 seconds, or for about 1.2 to about 3 seconds, or for about 1.5 to about 2.5 seconds, or for about 1.7 to about 2.2 seconds.

The reshaped beef portion is then deposited into a shape-retention form having a receiving volume generally corresponding to the shape of the reshaped beef portion. The receiving volume of the shape-retention form is sized to readily receive the reshaped beef portion, but with sufficiently close tolerances so that the reshaped beef portion will contact the bottom and side walls of the shape-retention form during application of force during the slicing step. This shape-retention form holds the beef during slicing, and assures that the cross-sectional shape is not further modified by the slicing operation, and that the beef is not torn or ripped during slicing.

The reshaped beef portion is sliced into finished product slices while in the shape-retention form. In an embodiment, the slicing is carried out using a cutting blade that is not reversed in direction while in contact with the beef portion. This single pass cut is in contrast to shear cutting with pressure, or to cutting with a sawing motion, which tends to create friction and tearing of the meat. It has been found that applying a back and forth action, such as a sawing action, leads to irregular cuts (for example, visible "waves" in the flesh of the beef portions) and may otherwise damage the beef.

In an embodiment, the cutting blade has a curved cutting edge. It has been found that a curved cutting blade slices the reshaped beef portion into finished product slices more cleanly and with less friction than a straight blade in the process of the present invention. Embodiments of the present process where a curved slicing blade is used therefor afford superior final individual beef portion products. An example of a suitable curved cutting blade is shown in Figure 1. This blade has a curved edge reminiscent of a traditional butcher knife. The blade body is ovoid or elliptical in shape, and is eccentrically mounted to an axel. As the blade is driven on the axel, it imparts a shearing motion to the beef portion in a single pass cut. This sweeping single pass does not impart a tearing or sawing motion, and mimics a knife motion by progressively moving through the muscle. Equipment suitable for adaptation for slicing the beef portions meat in accordance with the present invention are commercially available, for example, from TVI Company, Urschel Company, Hobart Company, Ross/Reiser Company, and Marel Company. In an embodiment, the present method is carried out as part of a commercial production system wherein at least about 1500 lbs, at least about 3000 lbs, or at least about 6000 lbs, of beef portions are sliced to finished product slices per hour in a single operation line. In an embodiment, the present method is carried out as part of a commercial production system wherein from about 1500 to about 10,000 lbs of beef portions are meat are sliced to finished product slices per hour in a single operation line. In an embodiment, the present method is carried out as part of a commercial production system wherein from about 3000 to about 10,000 lbs of beef portions are meat are sliced to finished product slices per hour in a single operation line. In an embodiment, the present method is carried out as part of a commercial production system wherein from about 4500 to about 10,000 lbs of beef portions are meat are sliced to finished product slices per hour in a single operation line. In an

embodiment, the present method is carried out as part of a commercial production system wherein from about 6000 to about 10,000 lbs of beef portions are meat are sliced to finished product slices per hour in a single operation line.

In an embodiment, the finished product slices are ribeye steaks. In an embodiment, the finished product slices are sirloin steaks.

EXAMPLES

Representative embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to the following examples that illustrate the principles and practice of the present invention.

Example 1

Ribeye beef portions ranging in size from 12" to 16" in length and 13 to 16 lbs were chilled in a chiller at a controlled temp of -25 * F. for a duration of 20 minutes to achieve an average core temp of 31° F. A number of product samples were immediately moved from the chiller to the press, and force was applied for a duration of 2 seconds to impart a uniform, generally rectangular three dimensional shape to the beef portion to form a shaped beef portion. A number of product samples were held at ambient room temperature (about 35°F) for a time sufficient for the temperature of the meat portion to equilibrate to the ambient room temperature prior to being moved to the press. These samples also had force applied thereto for a duration of 2 seconds to impart a uniform, generally rectangular three dimensional shape to the beef portion to form a shaped beef portion.

The shaped beef portions were sliced by three different methods: Slicing Method A. The shaped beef portion was sliced by using a vertical multi slicer that using a process similar to that of an industrial bread slicer.

Slicing Method B. The shaped beef portion was sliced by using a traditional single cut food grade band saw with a boneless (i.e. smooth, not serrated) blade installed.

Slicing Method C. The shaped beef portion was sliced by using an eccentrically mounted ovoid cutting blade that imparted a shearing motion to the beef portion in a single pass cut.

The beef portions were cut to form into finished product slices. This test resulted in the following findings

Slicing Methods A and B created too much friction and tearing of the muscle tissue. The resulting products were determined to be unsatisfactory.

Slicing Method C provided clean cuts that did not tear or rip the meat, and that did not alter the shape of the beef portion to disturb the uniformity of the finished product slices.

The beef portion samples that were set aside to "rest/temper" at ambient room temperature had a softened exterior that would not hold the desired shape through the slicing process, regardless of the slicing method used.

As used herein, the terms "about" or "approximately" mean within an acceptable range for the particular parameter specified as determined by one of ordinary skill in the art, which will depend in part on how the value is measured or determined, e.g., the limitations of the sample preparation and measurement system. Examples of such limitations include preparing the sample in a wet versus a dry environment, different instruments, variations in sample height, and differing requirements in signal-to-noise ratios. For example, "about" can mean greater or lesser than the value or range of values stated by 1/10 of the stated values, but is not intended to limit any value or range of values to only this broader definition. For instance, a concentration value of about 30% means a concentration between 27% and 33%. Each value or range of values preceded by the term "about" is also intended to encompass the embodiment of the stated absolute value or range of values.

Alternatively, particularly with respect to biological systems or processes, the term can mean within an order of magnitude, preferably within S-fold, and more preferably within 2-fold, of a value.

Throughout this specification and claims, unless the context requires otherwise, the word "comprise", and variations such as "comprises" and

"comprising", will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated integer or step or group of integers or steps but not the exclusion of any other integer or step or group of integer or step. When used herein "consisting of excludes any element, step, or ingredient not specified in the claim element. When used herein, "consisting essentially of does not exclude materials or steps that do not materially affect the basic and novel characteristics of the claim. In the present disclosure of various embodiments, any of the terms "comprising", "consisting essentially of and

"consisting of used in the description of an embodiment may be replaced with either of the other two terms.

All percentages and ratios used herein are weight percentages and ratios unless otherwise indicated. All patents, patent applications (including provisional applications), and publications cited herein are incorporated by reference as if individually incorporated for all purposes. Numerous characteristics and advantages of the invention meant to be described by this document have been set forth in the foregoing description. It is to be understood, however, that while particular forms or embodiments of the invention have been illustrated, various modifications, including modifications to shape, and arrangement of parts, and the like, can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.