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Yield improvement programs

When defining the term yield in this frame of reference it, in its essence, comes down to how much value the original product is converted to, through value adding activities.

The value conversion depends on the buy, cost and sell, micro and macro, context of the company.

There is no "one size fits all", which is why we offer value engineering solutions as well as training in compliance with with product specification based on your company's circumstances. 


Value engineering


Value engineering, in this setting, is a full review of sold product specifications, procurement and sales price plus the cost of the process. With this information, new process can be created within in the constraints of the raw material, and final product specifications. (read value engineering case studies)

Value engineering

The objective of carcass grading is, to match a final product with the best suited carcass in order to improve quality and financial performance. The selection of the carcasses is based on the most valuable products, the product is traced back to the originating primals and the grading is optimised around the carcasses that matches the primal criteria best.

The grading can also be extended to primal grading or even to individual carcass characteristics, if the production setup and software management systems allow. 

The benefit of carcass selection is primarily a reduction in meat and fat trimmings.

  • The lean products can be allocated to products with low fat content or rind on products.

  • Products for fixed weight can be determined at the point of carcass selection to minimise trim

  • Carcasses with higher fat levels can be allocated to the specification of the final product allows more fat

  • specific primal sizes that optimises secondary processing, e.g., slicing, can be identified and isolated

The yield performance starts with selection of the right raw material. If selling a butchered shoulder that allows 20% fat content, then attaining the optimal yield is going to be difficult utilising a lean raw material.

A shoulder with a subcutaneous fat level of 10mm will yield 44.86%* finished shoulder, but a shoulder that has a subcutaneous fat level of 15mm will yield 45.88%, butchered to a 20% specification. The difference is obviously fat, but if the specification allows for additional fat, then shoulder price is returned rather than fat price.

If the specification only allows 10% fat in the finished product, then the logic is reversed. A shoulder with 10mm subcutaneous fat will yield 38.99% finished shoulder - where the 15mm will yield 36.87%.

The effect on return price is an increase 1.3% (depending on sales prices) as less fat is sold (as fat) in both instances. All the costs are exactly the same, as the only change is raw material selection.

However, this can only be obtained with the right carcass selection and use of the right method of grading.

This logic applies to all carcasses and all products. Weight selection and size selection is also a factor in European countries where a lot of the products are sold at a predetermined weight i.e. fixed weight products.

The earlier in the process the product suitability is established,  the more revenue can be generated with the same raw material.

The carcass grading can also aid the decision process for a payment matrix that levitates towards premium payment for the carcasses with the highest return.  


AFSI is able to help you set up grading to best fit your raw material and products. 


*The quoted numbers are from an empirical yield study


Yield improvement

Spec compliance


Adhering to the product specification and attaining the yield targets from the standard costings, largely, depends on the work method, the raw material quality, the skill of the workforce and the balance between pace and quality of work. In some instances where the raw material is, proportionally, less expensive than labour it may make financial sense to make compromises on the yields in order to reduce the cost of labour. In reverse, where the raw material is more expensive lowering the pace to enable more time to care for the product may make more sense.   

Irrespective of your company's particular situation, AFSI can help make sense of how to improve yield performance and find the right balance. The standard approach would be an audit of the operational setup, along with the quality of the products. Based on the findings AFSI would estimate the value and cost of a support program

Process techniques, staff skills and stock losses (drip loss/purge) will be reviewed and improved as appropriate.

Through the process the local management team, butchery trainers, industrial engineers or whom ever else deemed material to retention of the improvement will be educated in the methods applied. 


Raw material selection

secondary processing
Raw material


The selection of raw material for secondary processing influences all the operational metrics in further meat processing.

In general, a larger primal will influence both yield and cost performance positively. A large primal will have a smaller percentile face cut and the cost will be reduced as there is less handling per kg.

However, at some point the primal can be too large and cause quality issues. The chops may become to thin and have a circumference that is to big for the intended packaging. 

Shape, girth and length of the products, intended for slicing, all influence the quality and yield performance. Though most slicing processes now have some form of down tempering of the product, to increase rigidity, and subsequently press the product to improve the shape, the shape of the raw material remains of importance.  The shape of the raw material is determined by the butchering process but also by how the primal has been packed and transported. 

When selecting raw material for minced or ground meat, sausage meat or any other form of minced meat for further processing, the fat and collagen content are of importance. Whether the whole of the supply chain from abattoir to retail is integrated or the raw material is sourced from another company, the amount of fat allowed in the specification has to be, reasonably, represented in the raw material. If the raw material is too fatty, infringement of specification and potentially also legislation could occur. 

In contrast if the raw material has too low a fat content it is likely to be too expensive.  

What ever the process is, AFSI can help you set up your raw material selection parameters.

Image by KG Baek

Yield improvement program 

secondary processing
Retail yeild

A very big proportion of the yield performance in further meat processing is the raw material and the equipment. 

Temperature of the product for slicing is important as a lower temperature increases the density of the product,  which results in the product not giving way when sliced. The firmer the product is the more accurately the slicing can be done. Though a low temperature aids the slicing accuracy, there may be other quality parameters to consider. If the meat is tempered to less than -1°C there is a risk of ice crystals forming in the meat, which could cause quality issues in fresh meat manufacturing.

If the product is cured, the product's density is also increased, but the increased density does not offer the same rigidity as down tempering and therefore the product temperature continues to be key. The salt's displacement of the water molecules lowers the freezing point of the meat, so a different temperature regime, to fresh meat, will have to be considered. 

To a great extent, the overall financial performance depends on how the by-products are handled. By slicing the as fresh as possible, more flexibility for the trim or reject joints is afforded, so costing up the primal as a whole, including the residual material, will strengthen the ability to compete in the market. The other benefit of slicing fresh material is reduced cash tide up in stocks and lower stock losses. 


 There are a number of different slicer option available and the right tool is more than half the job. Which tool is best suites the process depends on the process.


AFSI can help you review what makes most sense in the circumstances you are operating in to identify and implement improvements. 



Waste management & by-products

Waste management


The financial impact of poor by-product and waste management is significant. Red offal, green offal, blood category 2 & 3 makes up approximately 25% of the volume coming to a pork processing abattoir. If the products are not segregated correctly, through the process, more volume than necessary crosses over into the more expensive category, which for pork is category 2. For ovine and bovine animals there are even more considerations to make, as there could be category 1 in play as well as the two aforementioned categories and the hide to think about.

The health of the animals impacts the waste performance significantly, so it's important to understand the health of the different farms. Where possible the livestock health status should be included in the carcass payment matrix. Segregation of the different categories should be standardised in the context of local legislation, so it can be forecasted and followed as any other yield. 

Red and white offal can be a significant part of the revenue, generated in an abattoir, and should be followed as rigorously  as any other yield performance. Red and white offal have potential to generate attractive margins, when harvested correctly, and are also popular export products. 

In addition to aligning the plant staff to deliver the standards, it's important to include the veterinary team in best practice. Often the inspectors reject far more offal, on grounds of contamination, than there is basis for. 

Nearly all by-products can generate revenue either via utilisation into other products for human consumption, other parts of the food chain or energy production. It's important to link in with rendering companies, pet food manufactures, bio gas production and anaerobic digestion plants that can further process the by-product of the abattoir process. 

AFSI can help you review the whole process and identify opportunities and advise you about alternative sales for your by-products. 

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