Drying of meat products: opportunities for simulation and reduction of costs

The food industry is an important sub-sector of the food sector. Their processes are facing a potential increase in millora. Among them are the processes of assecatge dels productes carnis curats. The mills of the process of assecatge can be of different forms. For example, reduint el consum energètic, dissenyant the process i / o millorant its control to reduce the amount of producte rebutjat or reprocessat. The implantation of mills in the procés is not easy for me to enjoy the large number of parameters that intervene, such as temperature, humitat, velocitat de l’aire, provision of the product to the sewer, distribution system Of air, etc. At a later date, it is important to note that the characteristics of the existing contractors and processing plants vary significantly from one location to another, so they have to seek particular solutions per each case.

The optimization of processes and products through powerful software tools allow us to study the impact of the improvements by simulating in computer the designs of the processes or products that are being developed.

To this end, IRTAsim, a software tool for modeling and simulating the drying of meat products (http://irtasim.irta.cat/) has been developed by IRTA (within the Food Technology Program). The “on-line” tool is designed to study any product with a cylindrical geometry. The results obtained at the end of the simulation are the weight loss of the product as a function of time, and the distribution of water inside the product.

In conjunction with this tool, models have been developed that can be used with commercial software known as COMSOL, which allows simulating the distribution of air, temperature and humidity speeds in an industrial dryer (Figure 1). The combination of the two tools allows to estimate the evolution of the product in different points of the dryer, allowing to optimize the design of the dryer and the process quickly and economically.

These tools also allow incorporating other types of models. For example, growth models of microorganisms to be able to evaluate the food safety of the product and / or models that simulate the operation of the refrigeration system and that allow to estimate the energy consumption of the refrigerating system of the drying equipment.

By incorporating optimization algorithms to these tools, the simulation allows us to guarantee and optimize several fundamental aspects. On the one hand, by knowing the evolution of the product during the process, we will have an estimate of its quality (texture, appearance, …) and its economic performance. Thus, the optimum conditions of the process can be determined, either in fermentation or drying processes. This optimum directly affects the reduction of defective product (clogging, adhesion defects of the gut, …). On the other hand, by having an estimate of the food safety of the product, this factor can be included in the optimization algorithms so that the processing conditions are not only optimal from the point of view of quality, but also from food safety of process.

The reduction of consumption and energy cost are also important aspects in the optimization of the process. The tool also allows to incorporate the optimization of the energy cost considering the established restrictions in terms of quality and food safety.

Another opportunity offered by the simulation is to have appropriate process slogans to adjust the completion of the process according to orders and sales evolution, without affecting the quality and food safety of the product.

Two industrial cases are detailed below. In the first, the use of the simulation has facilitated the elimination of a quality problem, namely, the crushing of a salami. It has been simulated an increase of the relative humidity of the air and decrease of the time of operation of the turbine at beginning of process, and a decrease of humidity and increase of time of turbine to end of process that have given rise to a product with losses and Time of process similar and without the fault of collapsed. Figure 2 shows the estimate of the increase of moisture in the surface of the sausage in the process without bark. In the second case, the objective was to reduce the energy consumption of the drying process of a meat product. By increasing the evaporation temperature of the cooling system and reducing the turbine operating time at certain periods of the process (Figure 3), the simulation reported a reduction in energy consumption of about 15%.

As in other leading sectors, the simulation offers opportunities to improve drying processes at low cost.

News published in Carn de porc