The present invention relates to a method of treating meat or similar
organic material, said method being of the kind set forth in the preamble of claim
In methods of this kind, it is known to inject brine or other liquid
into meat by using injection needles, which have to be inserted into the meat before
injecting the liquid, and then removed again. The use of needles for this purpose
is associated with many disadvantages, of which but a few may be mentioned, such
DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
- that the injection needles are costly,
- that the injection needles are easily broken if they are thin, and rupture
or cut the meat fibres if they are thick,
- that the injection needles are difficult to clean and disinfect to the high
standard required in food-processing apparatus,
- that the spacing of the injection points is set, usually permanently, by the
spacing of the injection needles, and
- that no relative movement between the injection needles and the meat transverse
to the longitudinal direction of the needles is possible, making it impossible
to pass the meat at a constant speed through an injection unit.
It is the object of the present invention to provide a method of
the kind initially referred to, that does not suffer from the disadvantages mentioned
above, and this object is achieved with a method of the kind referred to above,
which according to the present invention is characterized by the feature set forth
in the characterising clause of claim 1. With this arrangement, the injection
is achieved without the use of injection needles, so that the above-mentioned
disadvantages resulting from the use of such needles are totally eliminated.
The present invention also relates to an apparatus for carrying out
the method of the invention. This apparatus is of the kind set forth in the preamble
of claim 7, and is according to the present invention characterized by the features
set forth in the characterising clause of this claim 7.
Advantageous embodiments of the method and the apparatus, the effects
of which - in so far as they are not obvious - are explained in the following
detailed portion of the present specification, are set forth in claims 2-6 and
8-14 respectively. Already at this point it should, however, be mentioned that
the embodiments of the method and the apparatus set forth in claims 5 and 13 respectively
makes it possible to vary the spacing of the injection points by simply varying
the intervals between the "shots" and/or the speed, with which the meat is moved
past the injection nozzles.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
In the following detailed specification, the present invention will
be explained in more detail with reference to the drawing, the single Figure of
which in a highly simplified manner shows an exemplary embodiment of an apparatus
for carrying out the method of the invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
The exemplary embodiment of an apparatus according to the present
invention shown on the drawing is adapted to receive, process and deliver meat
in a number of stages arranged in sequence, i.e.
- a vacuum hopper 1 with a cover 2, that may be opened to allow meat (not shown)
to be placed inside the vacuum hopper 1,
- a screw conveyor 3 driven by a motor 4 and adapted to convey meat from the
vacuum hopper 1 to a rotary displacement pump 5, e.g. of the kind disclosed in
European Patent No. 0.187.357, delivering meat through
- a pipe 6 to
- a brine injection unit 7, from which the meat, due to the pressure exerted
by the pump 5, moves further into
- a vibrational massage unit 8, from which the meat continues into
- a deformation-massage unit 9, from which the meat continues into
- an outlet unit 10, which may be adapted to deliver the processed meat into
a suitable container or bag or to means for conveying the meat to e.g. a packaging
machine, or else for further processing.
The brine injection unit 7 contains a number of nozzles 11 adapted
to direct powerful jets of brine supplied to the nozzles at high pressure by a
pump unit 12, the latter being supplied with brine from a brine tank 13. The pump
unit 12 may be equipped with a single pump supplying all the nozzles 11, or a number
of pumps, e.g. one for each nozzle or pair of set of nozzles. These pumps may
be adapted to deliver the brine continuously or - preferably - intermittently,
such as in short bursts separated by comparatively longer intervals.
When the apparatus shown in the drawing is to be put into operation,
the vacuum hopper 1 is opened by opening the cover 2, after which a suitable amount
of meat to be processed is placed in the hopper 1, and the cover 2 closed. Then,
the hopper 1 is evacuated in the normal manner so as to remove air from the hopper
itself and from spaces in and between the pieces of meat. Alternatively, the hopper
may have a constant vacuum and be fed through a pump or a suitable vacuum trap
in order to maintain a continuous operation.
When the vacuum has reached the desired value, the motor 4 is started,
and with it the screw conveyor 3 and the rotary displacement pump 5, so that the
meat will literally be pumped through the pipe 6, the brine injection unit 7,
the vibrational massage unit 8, the deformation-massage unit 9 and the outlet unit
10 to the receiving means connected to the latter.
During the movement through the brine injection unit 7, the meat
is subjected to injection of brine by the brine jets from the nozzles 11 impinging
upon it and - due to the high pressure of the liquid supplied by the pump unit
12 - penetrating into the meat to a depth depending on the pressure and the physical
characteristics of the meat.
As the brine injection unit 7 as well as the vibrational massage
unit 8 immediately downstream of it are in the form of a substantially closed conduit
- in the example shown roughly in the form of a simple shaped pipe - the brine
having been injected will not flow out from the meat, and in the vibrational massage
unit 8 it will be distributed among the fibres of the meat, thus achieving the
desired "pickling" effect.
As the meat has been transported from the vacuum hopper 1 to the
brine injection unit 7 through closed conduits, the vacuum state - at least as
far as included air and gases is concerned - is still present when the meat arrives
into the brine injection unit 7, so that the injection will in fact take place
under vacuum conditions, provided, of course, that there is a sufficient quantity
of meat in the units 8, 9 and/or 10 to prevent air from entering the injection
If the brine jets are ejected by the nozzles 11 in a continuous manner,
there is a possibility that the jets may cut longitudinal slits in the meat passing
through the injection unit 7, and to avoid this slit formation, the pump unit
12 may be adapted as indicated above to deliver the brine in short bursts separated
by comparatively long intervals. With this arrangement, the meat passing through
the brine injection unit 7 will be subjected to a number of "shots" of brine in
discrete regions, from which it will flow in between the fibres when subjected
to vibration in the vibrational massage unit 8. The spacing of these discrete
regions will, of course, depend on the time intervals between the "shots" and
on the speed, with which the meat the meat moves through the injection unit 7,
and this spacing may be adjusted to suit the particular type of meat being processed
by varying either or both of these parameters. Also, the injection pressure and
the duration of each "shot" may be varied to suit the particular type of meat.
In the example shown, the brine injection unit 7 and the vibrational
massage unit 8 are shown as two distinct separate units, but it lies within the
scope of the present invention to have these two units partly or fully integrated
with each other, so that the meat may be subjected to vibrational treatment while
still being injected with brine.
In the exemplary embodiment shown, there is only a single vacuum
hopper 1 with associated screw conveyor 3, thus making it necessary to stop the
apparatus, when a new batch of meat is to be introduced. This disadvantage may,
however, be easily overcome by using two vacuum hoppers in parallel, adapted to
be connected alternately to the remainder of the apparatus shown, or as previously
mentioned by introducing the meat through a pump or vacuum trap.
The vibrational massage unit 8 may be equipped with vibrators of
any suitable kind, such as producing infrasonic, sonic or ultrasonic vibrations
of suitable frequency and amplitude, in order to achieve the requisite distribution
of the injected brine between the meat fibres without causing damage to the latter.
At present, ultrasonic vibrations are preferred, as they appear to be more effective
in distributing the injected brine than sonic or infrasonic vibrations.
The deformation-massage unit 9, which is optional, consists of a
simple tube with a substantially smaller internal diameter than the tubular parts
of the brine injection units 7 and the vibrational massage unit 8. The reduction
in diameter at the entrance to the deformation-massage unit 9 forces the pieces
or chunks of meat to change shape, thus undergoing a kind of "deep massage", and
during the passage through the massage unit 9 itself, the meat will be massaged
by contact with the inside of the tube constituting this unit. An additional massage
effect could be achieved by means of a spatial variation of the diameter of this
In the above description, the present invention is explained with
reference to treating meat with brine, i.e. a solution of common salt, possibly
with certain additives. It does, however, lie within the scope of the present
invention to inject other liquids into both meat, meat products and similar organic
materials or products of same.