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Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR LEAN RECOVERY USING NON INVASIVE SENSORS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2012/021272
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An apparatus and method for non-invasive lean recovery from a sparse lean product or other animal muscle trimming, which can include conveying ground sparse lean through a conveyance channel where the conveyance channel extends along a path that extends through a scanning position adjacent a scanner. The process includes scanning along a predetermined length with the scanner the ground sparse lean product traveling through the conveyance channel and further analyzing the scan and determining the percent fat content for each ground sparse lean product segment which is defined by the predetermined length of the ground sparse lean product within the volume of the conveyance channel and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel. The process can further include directing each ground sparse lean product segment down one of a plurality of processing paths corresponding to the one defined fat content range in which the corresponding percent fat content falls.

Inventors:
VIRIPPIL MANOJ M (US)
TJADEN DANIEL E (US)
Application Number:
US2011/044763
Publication Date:
February 16, 2012
Filing Date:
July 20, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
TYSON FOODS INC (US)
VIRIPPIL MANOJ M (US)
TJADEN DANIEL E (US)
International Classes:
A22C18/00; A22C25/00
Foreign References:
US4201302A1980-05-06
US20070178819A12007-08-02
US20050188859A12005-09-01
US5215772A1993-06-01
US20060147588A12006-07-06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STALLION, Mark, E. (190 Carondelet Plaza Suite 60, St. Louis MO, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A method for segregating animal muscle trimming product based on percent fat content comprising the steps of ;

grinding an animal muscle trimming product into a ground animal muscle trimming product;

outputting the ground animal muscle trimming product through a conveyance channel from and entry end to an exit end;

extending the conveyance channel having the ground animal muscle trimming traveling there through along a path that extends through a scanning position adjacent a scanner;

scanning along a predetermined length with the scanner the ground animal muscle trimming product traveling through the conveyance channel as the ground animal muscle trimming product passes through the scanning position;

analyzing the scan and determining the percent fat content for each ground animal muscle trimming product segment which is defined by the predetermined length of the ground animal muscle trimming product within the volume of the conveyance channel and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground animal muscle trimming product at the scanning position; and

cutting away each ground animal muscle trimming product segment and sorting based on which of a plurality of defined fat content ranges the corresponding percent fat content is within and directing each ground animal muscle trimming product segment down one of a plurality of processing paths corresponding to the one defined fat content range in which the corresponding percent fat content falls.

2. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 1, where the scanner is an X-Ray scanner.

3. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 1, where the scanner is a near infra-Red scanner.

4. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 1, where the predetermined length is from about 4 mm to about 10 mm.

5. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 1, where the plurality of processing paths are a plurality of conveyor lanes.

6. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 5, where the conveyance channels are tubes, and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground sparse lean product is the cross section areas of the tube occupied by the ground animal muscle trimming product and the exit end is an exit end of the tube, which is communicably linked to a plurality of exit tubes.

7. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 6, where each of the exit tubes have a knife gate adapted to selectively open and close as activated by a solenoid valve push mechanism.

8. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 7, further comprising an encoder in electronic signal communication with the scanner and the solenoid valve push mechanism such that the scanner is adapted to provide an electronic control signal to control the solenoid valve push mechanism to selectively open and close the knife gate based on the percent fat content.

9. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 8, further comprising the step of:

scanning each animal muscle trimming product segment for segment fat content and segregating each animal muscle trimming product segment further based on the segment fat content.

10. The method of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 8, further comprising the step of: recombining a combination of animal muscle trimming product segments to achieve a desired recombined fat content.

11. A system for segregating animal muscle trimming product based on percent fact content comprising:

a grinder having a pre-sized reduction end plate adapted to mince an animal muscle trimming product;

an output port communicably attached to an output of the pre-sized end plate and said output port mounted as a conduit to receive the minced animal muscle trimming product from the output of the end plate and channel the minced animal muscle trimming product into a conveyor channel where said conveyor channel extends from an entry end to an exit end along a path that extends through a scanning position;

a scanner operable to scan along a predetermined length the ground animal muscle trimming product traveling through the conveyance channel as the ground animal muscle trimming product passes through the scanning position and to generate scan data;

a processor electronically integrated with said scanner and operable to analyze the scan data and determine the percent fat content for each ground animal muscle trimming product segment which is defined by the predetermined length of the ground animal muscle trimming product within the volume of the conveyance channel and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground animal muscle trimming product at the scanning position;

a cutter attached proximate the exit end of the conveyance channel and adapted to cut away each ground animal muscle trimming product segment;

an encoder electronically integrated with the processor and the cutter and operable to control the cutter to open and cut based on which of a plurality of defined fat content ranges the corresponding percent fat content is within; and

processing paths each corresponding to the one defined fat content range in which the corresponding percent fat content falls. 12. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim

11, where the scanner is an X-Ray scanner.

13. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 11, where the scanner is a near infra-Red scanner. 14. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim

11, where the predetermined length is from about 4 mm to about 10 mm.

15. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim 11, where the plurality of processing paths are a plurality of conveyor lanes.

16. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim

15, where the conveyance channels are tubes, and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground animal muscle trimming product is the cross section areas of the tube occupied by the ground animal muscle trimming product and the exit end is an exit end of the tube, which is communicably linked to a plurality of exit tubes.

17. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim

16, where each of the exit tubes have a knife gate adapted to selectively open and close as activated by a solenoid valve push mechanism.

18. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim

17, where the encoder in electronic signal communication with the processor of the scanner and the solenoid valve push mechanism such that the scanner is adapted to provide an electronic control signal to control the solenoid valve push mechanism to selectively open and close the knife gate based on the percent fat content.

19. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim

18, further comprising:

a second scanner operable to scan each animal muscle trimming product segment for segment fat content; and

a segregator operable for segregating each animal muscle trimming product segment further based on the segment fat content.

20. The system of segregating animal muscle trimming product as recited in Claim, further comprising the:

a combiner operable for recombining a combination of animal muscle trimming product segments to achieve a recombined product to achieve a desired recombined fat content.

Description:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR LEAN RECOVERY USING NON INVASIVE

SENSORS

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Field of Invention: This invention relates generally to lean recovery and, more particularly, to lean recovery using sensors. Background Art: Attention within the meat industry has been recently drawn to the dangers of diets high in fat, especially as high fat diets have been implicated in an increased incidence of diseases of blood vessels, such as coronary heart disease and arteriosclerosis. As a consequence, the medical profession has suggested that the consumption of fat should be be reduced. One way to accomplish this is to eat meats that have been processed so that they contain a reduced amount of fat.

One method to reduce the amount of fat in meat is simply to manually cut fat from the meat. Meat having higher amounts of fat is cut or trimmed from meat having lower amount of fat (meat that is more lean). The resulting trimmings are merely separated by operators with sharp cutting utensils. However, manually cutting more fatty portion from the more lean portions, for example, is not effective in reducing the fat content of the remaining more lean portions to lower than about five percent. In addition, this process does not assist in recovering any further lower fat lean portions from the trimmings. Further, skilled workers and time are required to cut the meat, thus making the process expensive and inefficient, further necessitating the need to recover usable lean from the trimmings.

In an attempt to reduce the fat content of meat and meat trimmings other processes have been proposed and utilized. These processes typically employ one or more of the following approaches. First, the fat can be freed from meat by mechanical techniques, such as by the use of a grinder, a crusher, a press, a comminutor, or a micro-comminutor. These procedures have been employed with or without accompanying high temperatures. Physical extraction techniques have also been utilized, such as the use of heat, and reaction of gases with meats, including fluid extraction. Fat has also been removed employing chemical extraction techniques, such as the use of chemical reagents, including acids.

Unfortunately, these techniques generally have a detrimental impact on the meat or alter the meat's protein profile, vitamin profile, color, texture and/or water content. For example, high temperatures denature meat. The use of diluents, such as water, can leach water-soluble proteins and vitamins from the meat and can increase the moisture content of the defatted product. Additionally, when diluents are used with micro-comminution of meat, the functional properties of the resulting product can be adversely affected. The use of chemical reagents, acid or alkaline treatment of meat facilitates the binding of anions or cations, respectively, to the protein, thereby adversely affecting the meat's properties.

Moreover, it is often the subsequent separation step that is critical to the success or failure of a defatting process. Even if a substantial amount of fat is initially liberated from the meat, unless the fat is effectively separated from the meat, the process will not be a success. For example, even if the proper choice of conditions for grinding or comminuting meat produces a substantial fat-containing fraction, conventional devices, such as conventional decanter centrifuges, are not completely effective in separating the resulting fractions. Decanter centrifuge methods have also been utilized for producing lower fat lean meat having substantially the same functionality, protein profile, vitamin profile, color, texture and water content as the raw meat starting material. The reduced fat meat, however, can often contain from about 0% to 10% fat and can have a substantially reduced level of cholesterol. The decanter centrifuge can have a hollow, centrifugal rotor with a longitudinal axis of rotation a. The centrifugal rotor defines a generally cylindrical bowl tapered at one end to form a beach. The centrifuge also can have a feed tube for introducing starting material into a delivery zone in the interior of the cylindrical bowl and a fluid inlet tube for proportionately metering a fluid into the feed tube. A screw conveyor, can be disposed in the cylindrical bowl to cause a substantially solid portions to be discharged out of at least one solid discharge port located at the tapered end of the rotor and a substantially liquid fraction to be discharged out of at least one liquid discharge port located at the opposing end of the rotor. Further, Low temperature rendering processes have been used to separate protein from fatty tissue in animal trimmings. The processes generally involve comminuting fatty tissue from animals, such as hogs or cattle, to form a semi-solid slurry or meat emulsion, heating the slurry or emulsion to melt the fat, and then separating the fat and protein by centrifugation. The protein can then be used as an ingredient in processed meat products such as sausage and other cured and processed meats. It has been found that the protein or meat provided by prior art low temperature rendering processes suffer from undesirable flavor changes shortly after production. In order to reduce the flavor changes after low temperature rendering processes, some process use a conditioning agents which reacts or combines with the pigments of the meat to reduce the activity of the pigments which catalyzes the development of off-flavor.

The government provides that a certain quality of meat product obtained from animal trimmings can be used undeclared in meat products of the same species. For example, "finely textured beef and "lean finely textured beef can be used in ground beef without being declared on the label. "Finely textured meat" is required to have a fat content of less than a defined percent; a protein content of greater than a defined percent. "Lean finely textured meat" is required to have a fat content of less than a defined percent, by weight, and complies with the other requirements of "finely textured meat." A low temperature rendering process can include the process steps of: heating desinewed animal trimmings in a heat exchanger having a first-in and first-out arrangement to provide heating of the desinewed animal trimmings to a temperature in the range of about 90.degree. F. to about 120.degree. F. to form a heated slurry; separating a solids stream and a liquids stream from the heated slurry, the solids stream containing an increased weight percent of protein and moisture compared with the weight percent of protein and moisture in the heated slurry, and the liquids stream containing an increased weight percent of tallow compared with the weight percent of tallow in the heated slurry; separating a heavy phase and a light phase from the liquids stream, the heavy phase containing an increased weight percent of moisture and water soluble protein compared with the weight percent of moisture and water soluble protein in the liquids stream, and the light phase containing an increased weight percent of tallow compared with the weight percent of tallow in the liquids stream; and combining the solids stream and the heavy phase to form a meat product. Preferably, the meat product has a fat content of less than 30%; a protein content of greater than 14%; and a protein efficiency ratio of 2.5 or higher, and an essential amino acids content of at least 33% of the total amino acids. In a preferred embodiment, the animal trimmings are processed in closed environment so that atmospheric oxidation is reduced. In addition, the animal trimmings are preferably not heated above 110. degree. F. in the heat exchanger, and are not treated with chemicals or additives.

The step of separating a solids stream and a liquids stream from the heated slurry can occur in a decanter, and the step of separating a heavy phase and a light phase from the liquids stream can occur in a centrifuge, and the meat product can be frozen within about 30 minutes of heating the desinewed animal trimmings in a heat exchanger. The meat product prepared by the low temperature rendering process is preferably finely textured meat.

Preferably, the low temperature rendering process is continuous, but can be modified for batch or semi-batch operations.

In contrast, testing may be performed in a noninvasive manner through the use of sensors, such as microwave sensors. These provide a valuable improvement in monitoring meat flows. However, heretofore microwave sensors have not been required to monitor very low-fat raw lean meat supplies. It has been discovered that such microwave sensor equipment typically is not adequate to consistently monitor these very low-fat meat supplies. More particularly, it has been discovered that the sensitivity of this equipment to temperature variations renders it unreliable for a very low fat application. However, methods have been used for calibrating microwave sensors for measurement of meat fat, protein, and moisture content and further separating portions of the meat that exceed the standard fat, protein, and moisture content. Temperature calibrating according to the invention alleviates a persistent erroneous measurement problem which developed in attempting to use available equipment for measuring very low levels of meat parameters. The sensing method can be utilized in a method of separating meat products into multiple flows, at least one flow having a meat parameter in excess of a predetermined amount. Such methods can include the steps of providing a microwave sensor unit having a location at which microwave power is applied; flowing a supply of meat through the microwave sensor unit; applying microwave power of the microwave sensor unit to the flowing supply of meat to generate microwave signal readings of the meat products; sensing the temperature of the flowing supply of meat to generate a temperature signal reading; transmitting the microwave signal readings and the temperature signal reading to a processor of the microwave sensor unit; processing the microwave signal readings and the temperature signal reading together with a preloaded set of temperature calibration coefficients in order to generate temperature corrected meat parameter value outputs for the microwave sensor unit for variations in temperature of the flowing supply of meat; comparing the meat parameter derived during the processing step with a predetermined meat parameter value; and diverting from the flowing supply of meat a portion thereof which had been determined during the processing step to have a meat parameter in excess of said predetermined amount thereby separating out product having lower fat content. However, this process is not useful for lean recovery from meat having higher fat content.

A more effective method for lean recovery is needed to resolve the short comings of previous methods.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The invention is method and system for segregating sparse lean product based on percent fat content. One embodiment of the invention is a method including grinding a sparse lean product into a ground sparse lean product and outputting the ground sparse lean product through a conveyance channel from and entry end to an exit end. The process includes extending the conveyance channel having the ground sparse lean traveling there through by pushing the product through the conveyance channel along a path that extends through a scanning position adjacent a scanner. The process includes scanning along a predetermined length with the scanner the ground sparse lean product traveling through the conveyance channel as the ground sparse lean product passes through the scanning position and further analyzing the scan and determining the percent fat content for each ground sparse lean product segment which is defined by the predetermined length of the ground sparse lean product within the volume of the conveyance channel and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground sparse lean product at the scanning position.

The process can further include cutting away each ground sparse lean product segment and sorting based on which of a plurality of defined fat content ranges the corresponding percent fat content is within and directing each ground sparse lean product segment down one of a plurality of processing paths corresponding to the one defined fat content range in which the corresponding percent fat content falls. The scanner can one of many types of comparable scanners including an X-Ray scanner or a near infra-Red scanner. The predetermined length scanned can be from about approximately 4 mm to about

approximately 10 mm. The plurality of processing paths can be a plurality of conveyor lanes.

The conveyance channels can be tubes or other method of conveyance, and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground sparse lean product can the cross section areas of the tube occupied by the ground sparse lean product and the exit end can be an exit end of the tube, which is communicably linked to a plurality of exit tubes. Each of the exit tubes can have a knife gate adapted to selectively open and close as activated by a solenoid valve push mechanism. An encoder in electronic signal communication with the scanner and the solenoid valve push mechanism can be utilized such that the scanner is adapted to provide an electronic control signal to control the solenoid valve push mechanism to selectively open and close the knife gate based on the percent fat content.

The sparse lean product segments can undergo further scanning of each sparse lean product segment for segment fat content and further segregation of each sparse lean product segment further based on the segment fat content. The sparse lean product segments can also be further processed by recombining a combination of sparse lean product segments to achieve a desired recombined fat content. Another embodiment of the invention is a system for segregating sparse lean product based on percent fact content. The system can include a grinder having a pre-sized reduction end plate adapted to mince or dice a sparse lean product into a ground sparse lean product. An output port can be communicably attached to an output of the pre-sized end plate and said output port can be mounted as a conduit to receive the minced sparse lean product from the output of the end plate and channel the minced or ground sparse lean product into a conveyor channel where said conveyor channel can extend from an entry end to an exit end along a path that extends through a scanning position. A scanner can be utilized that is operable to scan along a predetermined length the ground sparse lean product traveling through the conveyance channel as the ground sparse lean product passes through the scanning position and to generate scan data representative of the fat content. A processor can be electronically integrated with said scanner and operable to analyze the scan data and determine the percent fat content for each ground sparse lean product segment which is defined by the predetermined length of the ground sparse lean product within the volume of the conveyance channel and the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground sparse lean product at the scanning position. A cutter attached proximate the exit end of the conveyance channel can be utilized to cut away each ground sparse lean product segment.

An encoder can be electronically integrated with the processor and the cutter and operable to control the cutter to open and cut based on which of a plurality of defined fat content ranges the corresponding percent fat content is within. There can be processing paths each corresponding to the one defined fat content range in which the corresponding percent fat content falls.

The system can utilize a scanner is an X-Ray scanner or a near infra-Red scanner. The predetermined length can be from about 4 mm to about 10 mm, which is an achievable resolution and sufficient for determining fat content.

The system can utilize conveyance channels that are tubes, and therefore, the cross section areas of the conveyance channel occupied by the ground sparse lean product is the cross section areas of the tube occupied by the ground sparse lean product and the exit end is an exit end of the tube, which is communicably linlced to a plurality of exit tubes. The system can be designed where each of the exit tubes have a laiife gate adapted to selectively open and close as activated by a solenoid valve push mechanism. The encoder in electronic signal communication with the processor of the scanner and the solenoid valve push mechanism can be adapted such that the scanner is adapted to provide an electronic control signal to control the solenoid valve push mechanism to selectively open and close the knife gate based on the percent fat content. The system can further comprising a second scanner operable to scan each sparse lean product segment for segment fat content; and a segregator operable for segregating each sparse lean product segment further based on the segment fat content. The system can also include a combiner operable for recombining a combination of sparse lean product segments to achieve a recombined product to achieve a desired recombined fat content. The invention provides a non-invasive method to accurately recover lean from sparse lean products.

Throughout the specification it should be noted that the term "sparse lean" is utilized by way of example, however, in no way limits the scope or utility of the present invention, which can be utilized on any animal muscle trimming and doesn't have to be a "sparse lean" product. The scope and utility of the invention is broad enough to include "any trim or muscle with its reduced size", which includes every type of trim or muscle where fat content is to be controlled. The present invention disclosed and claimed herein is not limited to ground product only or sparse lean only.

These and other advantageous features of the present invention will be in part apparent and in part pointed out herein below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a better understanding of the present invention, reference may be made to the accompanying drawings in which:

Fig. 1 is a top view of the lean recovery system 100 is shown. The top view shows the end to end process from the input of the sparse lean product to the recovered lean product segments that have been sorted for further processing. The sparse lean product or meat trimmings can be input into the system by the sparse lean feed conveyor 102. The sparse lean product or trimmings are conveyed from the input end of the conveyor to the output end of the conveyor where it is dropped into a reducer 101 whereby the sparse lean product can be diced or reduced into smaller pieces. The reducer 101 is illustrated in this figure as a grinder system including a grinder hopper 103 which channels the sparse lean product into the grinder 104. The grinder can be equipped with a rotating knife or auger type mechanism to pre-size the product and the grinder can have a pre-sizer end plate that is modified to output the minced or diced product horizontally. The grinder 104 can have a horizontal adaptor output 105 which can channel the minced product into a conduit 106 which in turn channels the product through tubing 108. The tubing 108 can extend through a scanner 110 having an internal scanner position 109 whereby the scanner can scan incremental lengths of the product traveling through the tubing passing through the scanner position. The scanner 110 can have a scanner control interface 111 whereby a user can provide inputs into the scanner as well as monitor various operational parameters. The scanner can be adapted to scan the product along incremental predetermined lengths to thereby scan incremental segments of the groud sparse lean product traveling through the conveyance channel illustrated in this figure as tubing. The incremental predetermined lengths of ground sparse lean product can be scanned as the product passes through the scanned position. The scanner can be an x-ray type scanner or alternatively a near infrared type scanner which can be adapted to scan the product traveling through the conveyance channel and take the scanned data and analyze it to determine the fat content. The scanner can be adapted to scan incremental lengths and determine the fat content contained within those incremental lengths in order to more accurately account for changes in fat content of the ground sparse lean product traveling through the conveyance channel. One embodiment of the present invention can include a scanner that scans over incremental predetermined lengths where the lengths are from about approximately 4 millimeters to about approximately 10 millimeters in length. In the non-invasive lean recovery system 100 can also include a controller 126 that communicates the width of the scanner 110 for exchange of control parameters. The controller 126 can also communication and control the conveyor 102, the reducer 101, the scanner 110, the various product flow sensors 124, the cutters 112, the product conveyors 118, the reject conveyors 120, and the various rejection mechanisms 122. Once the ground sparse lean product has traveled through the portion of a conveyance channel or tubing then extends through the scanner the ground sparse lean product will continue to travel through the conveyance channel through the reject portion of the tubing or conveyance channel 114. The reject portion of the conveyance channel 114 will extend to cutters 112 which will incrementally cut away segments of the ground sparse lean product where the incremental segments are cut at lengths consistent with the predetermined length of the scan. Therefore each ground sparse lean product segment that is cut away will have a corresponding percent fat content that has been calculated by the scanner. Each ground sparse lean product segment that has been cut away will be transferred to a reject conveyor 120 and as the ground sparse lean product segment travels along the reject conveyor the product segment can be selectively sorted based on its percent fat content. This can be accomplished by utilizing ejection mechanisms 122 spaced incrementally along the length of the reject conveyor 120. The ejection mechanism can laterally push this product segment off of the reject conveyor 120 down a chute that channels the segment to an appropriate product conveyor that corresponds to a predefined percent of fat content percentage range. Therefore, for each product segment that is cut away a fat content for that segment has been determined by the scanner. The fat content determined can fall within various predetermined percent ranges and the product segments can be sorted in accordance to those predetermined percentage ranges. A plurality of product conveyors can be utilized whereby each of the plurality of conveyors can correspond to a given percentage range. The product segment can be in turn ejected at the appropriate time to fall on the appropriate corresponding product conveyor having a predefined percentage range for which the fat content of the product segment falls. In figure 1 the reject conveyor 120 and the product conveyor 118 are illustrated as a plurality of endless belt conveyors that travel in parallel. However, other conveyance means can be utilized. The injection mechanism is shown in this figure as a plurality of air nozzles that are incrementally spaced along a length of a reject conveyor whereby the air nozzles are designed and controlled to emit an air jet pulse to laterally push a product segment off the reject conveyor into the appropriate chute channeling the product segment to the appropriate product conveyor.

Fig. 2 is a side view of the lean recovery system 100 is shown. Again an end to end view of the lean recovery system is shown. As illustrated previously the sparse lean feed conveyor 102 is positioned to convey the sparse lean product or trimmings to the reducer 101. The reducer 101 is designed to flow the product through the horizontal adaptor output plate 105 and into the conduit 106 and further into a plurality of conveyance channels 108. Product flow sensors can be positioned along the conveyance channel in order to determine the product flow at various positions along the channel. The product flow sensors are shown in figure 2 as items 202, 124, and 204. This side view reveals the scanner control interface 111 whereby a use can provide certain inputs and view certain operational parameters of the scanner. The scanner can have a stack light 206 than can provide an indication of the operation mode of the scanner. The controller 126 is again show adjacent to the scanner. The reject tubing 114 is shown extending into a cutter 112 which is positioned above the product end reject conveyors.

Fig. 3 is a front view of the lean recovery system 100 is shown. Again the scanner 110 and the controller 126 are shown adjacent with a communication conduit connecting the two panels. This front view reveals the scanner chamber 304 in which there is a scan position 109 and it is at this position where the scanner scans the product over a predetermined length. This view also shows the view of the cutters 112 having a conduit 302 out of which the product segments exit to thereby fall onto the reject conveyor 120. The reject conveyor can be designed to transfer any rejected product not meeting one of the predetermined percentage fat content ranges onto a take away conveyor (not shown) for further processing. Any product selectively ejected based on falling within one of the predetermined ranges full percent fat content will be ejected to one of the plurality of product conveyors 118. Fig. 4 is a perspective view of the lean recovery system is shown. The sparse lean feed conveyor 102 is shown as an endless belt conveyor that drops the sparse lean product onto hopper deflector plates 401, 402, 403, 404, and 405. The deflector plates channel the product into the reducer. A communication conduit 406 is shown in this view that can be connected to the controller 126 (not shown in this view). As previously indicated the cutter 112 can cut the ground sparse lean product into product segments having a length that corresponds to the predetermined scan length and the product segments can fall onto the reject conveyor where the product segments can be selectively ejected down a chute 408 which will direct the product segment to fall on the selected product conveyor having a percentage fat content range that corresponds to the fat content of the product segment determined by the scanner.

Fig. 5 is a perspective view of the cutter and reject tubing and product conveyor channels are shown interfacing with the grinder. In this view the grinder is shown having a grinder input end 502 through which the sparse lean product can be inserted and subsequently dropped and directed by the hopper deflector plates. As previously indicated products flow sensors 124, 202, and 204 can be utilized to determine the product flow along various positions of the product conveyor channels. Therefore, the sparse lean product is input through the grinder input end 502 and is minced or diced into a ground sparse lean product that travels through the conveyance channels and is ultimately cut by the cutters 112 and the product segments are output through the cutter conduits 302. Fig. 6 is a perspective view of the cutter and reject tubing 114 is shown. Again the cutters 112 will cut away product segments which will in turn fall onto the reject conveyors 120. As the product segments travel along the reject conveyors 120 the product segments can be ejected laterally off of the reject conveyor by an ejection mechanism 122 which in this case is shown as a air nozzle that is controlled by the controller to selectively emit an air jet puff to laterally push the product segment laterally off of the reject conveyor down a chute 408 which will channel it to the appropriate product conveyor 118. Each of the cutters and the conveyors can be communicably linked to the controller 126 such that the controller can provide control parameters or inputs to thereby control the operation of the various components. Further the product flow sensors 204 and the other product flow sensors as mentioned previously, can be communicably linked with the controller to provide product flow data which cab be utilized to control the various components of the system.

Fig. 7 is an illustration of the controller station as it is shown. The controller station 126 is shown having a display 702 whereby user can view various inputs and control parameters and the various subcomponent system operations such as the operation of the grinder as well as viewing product flow data provided by the product flow sensors. The controller 126 can also have an input device 704 that allows the user to input certain control parameters or control functions for controlling the operation of the overall system.

Fig. 8 is an illustration of the system and method is shown. With this illustration that trim is processed in order to pump or push the product along conveyance channels that can then be scanned by the appropriate scanner as the product travels through a scan position once the product is scanned it can be sorted to one of a plurality of product channels that are segregated by predefined percent ranges that are representative of the percent content desired for the conveyance pan et. al.

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof are shown by way of example in the drawings and will herein be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the drawings and detailed description presented herein are not intended to limit the invention to the particular embodiment disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION

According to the embodiment(s) of the present invention, various views are illustrated in Fig. 1-8 and like reference numerals are being used consistently throughout to refer to like and corresponding parts of the invention for all of the various views and figures of the drawing. Also, please note that the first digit(s) of the reference number for a given item or part of the invention should correspond to the Fig. number in which the item or part is first identified.

One embodiment of the present invention comprising a grinder, conveyor, and cutter teaches a novel apparatus and method for segregating sparse lean product based on percent fat content. Sparse lean product or trim can be accumulated trim in an auger/grinder. The grinder can be equipped with rotating knife or cutting plate to pre-size the product. The auger/grinder's end plate can be adapted with an adapter to output the ground product horizontally. A conveyance system can be communicably connected to the output of the grinder (an example of a conveyance system can be a plurality of tubes) for conveying the ground product to an X-ray station disposed after the output of the auger/grinder. An X-ray or Near Infra-Red (NIR) system can be used to detect the combined fat analysis (FA) by every predefined scan length of the tube cross section. The X-ray or NIR can provide an input to a controller system that can at the appropriate time activate the solenoid valve push mechanism to open/close a knife gate. The cut product will be dropped onto a conveyor that transports the product to a combo or other process. The X-ray or NIR software along with the controller can keep the aggregate FA of each of the products/conveyors (output streams). Each of the output streams can further be combined to get a desired out fat % combo

The details of the invention and various embodiments can be better understood by referring to the figures of the drawing. Referring to Fig. 1, a top view of the lean recovery system is shown.

Referring to Fig. 2, a side view of the lean recovery system is shown.

Referring to Fig. 3, a front view of the lean recovery system is shown.

Referring to Fig. 4, a perspective view of the lean recovery system is shown. Referring to Fig. 5, a perspective view of the grinder, conveyor and cutter interface is shown.

Referring to Fig. 6, a perspective view of the cutter and exit tube interfaces is shown. Referring to Fig. 7, an illustration of the controller station is shown; and

Referring to Fig. 8, an illustration of the system and method is shown.

The various lean recover examples shown above illustrate a novel method and apparatus for lean recovery from meat trimmings. A user of the present invention may choose any of the above lean recovery embodiments, or an equivalent thereof, depending upon the desired application. In this regard, it is recognized that various forms of the subject lean recovery method and apparatus could be utilized without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

As is evident from the foregoing description, certain aspects of the present invention are not limited by the particular details of the examples illustrated herein, and it is therefore contemplated that other modifications and applications, or equivalents thereof, will occur to those skilled in the art. It is accordingly intended that the claims shall cover all such modifications and applications that do not depart from the sprit and scope of the present invention. Other aspects, objects and advantages of the present invention can be obtained from a study of the drawings, the disclosure and the appended claims.