J&G Foods has been carefully watching the trends in case-ready meats at the retail supermarket level, seeking the right opportunities to expand its business. Investments in plant improvements, people and equipment, including a new freezer technology, helped launch the company into growth mode. And when the timing was right, they were ready.
J&G Foods is a meat processor in Sutton, Mass., with customers in three principle sectors: the food service market, such as colleges, restaurants and healthcare facilities; home delivery companies who buy vacuum-sealed frozen meats to sell directly to customers; and retail supermarkets. J&G Foods determined it wanted to expand further into retail markets and had identified opportunities and niches where it could succeed with case-ready meats.
“These days, skilled meat cutters are hard to find. They’re just not available like they used to be,” explains Joe Piperato, president of J&G. “Retail stores are under tremendous pressure to offer a greater selection of meat products, including new cuts, a variety of grill-ready marinated meats, both conventional and special feeding and raising protocols, a medley of pack sizes and so forth. But retailers can’t do it all, so they have to turn to centralized facilities.”
Finding The Right Solution
Because freezing and chilling are so important to his business, Piperato knew that improving the efficiency of J&G’s freezing process would take it one step closer to its expansion goals. Enter Air Products’ Freshline® QS tunnel freezer. Designed with simplicity and economics in mind, this freezer was integrated quickly into J&G’s production line.
J&G uses the Freshline QS tunnel freezer to process a variety of meats, including steaks, hamburger and veal patties, Salisbury steaks and pork specialty items. Everything J&G sells is ready-to-cook, both marinated and plain cuts of meat. Finished goods, chilled or frozen, are shipped according to customers’ specific requirements.
The simplicity of the new freezer is key for J&G. “The Freshline QS freezer’s automated control system and prerecorded recipes make the freezer simple to start up and easy to operate for both our maintenance and production teams,” says Wayne Morin, maintenance manager at J&G Foods. “This simplicity makes it feasible to train more operators to run the system.”
The design, with open and easy access to the freezer’s internal parts, such as the plastic belt, is also appealing to Morin. “Hygiene and safety are paramount at J&G,” Morin says. “Cleaning is quick and easy, which reduces our downtime during product changeovers.”
He also points out that the simpler design with fewer moving parts means fewer maintenance issues. “And from a safety perspective, the oxygen sensor is a huge plus and something we didn’t have before. This is critical to working safely with nitrogen,” he says.
Proven Benefits With Cryogenic Freezing
In business since 1999, J&G has been using cryogenic freezing from the beginning. “We believe in cryogenic freezing because of the advantages of product quality. Cryogenic freezing is top-notch, and the benefits are long proven,” Piperato says. “With ultra-fast liquid nitrogen freezing, we get a higher yield and the customer gets less shrinkage when the product is prepared. It’s a mutually beneficial freezing option.”
According to Duane Gleason, an Air Products food technology specialist, cryogenic freezing with liquid nitrogen has many advantages over mechanical systems like blast freezing. “Due to the extremely cold temperature of liquid nitrogen, food is frozen within minutes. This quick freeze not only contributes to a higher yield, but also enhances product quality,” he explains.