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What Are the Different Types of Meat Processing Equipment?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many types of meat processing equipment used when cutting and processing animals into food. From saws and knives to tenderizers and grinders, meat processing equipment makes the task of butchering much easier for most people who use the equipment. Commonly crafted from stainless steel to aid in cleaning and preventing bacteria from living on the machinery, this equipment is specifically manufactured for the purpose of cutting and processing meat and should not be used for other purposes. Many of the different types of equipment, such as grinders and mixers, are offered in both manual or hand-operated styles as well as electrical versions to speed up the process.

One of the most basic tools and pieces of meat processing equipment needed to process animals into table fare is a knife. Sharp knives not only make the job of cutting meat faster, but they can also prevent accidents from happening. Most butchers will agree that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. The reason for this is a dull knife will cause the butcher to force the tool harder and more violently through a piece of meat than a sharp knife. This often leads to cuts, accidental self-stabbings and injuries otherwise averted by using properly-sharpened equipment.

In addition to knives, the item of meat processing equipment most commonly purchased is a meat saw. The meat saw is a large-framed, stainless-steel saw with a fine-toothed blade suitable for cutting through meat, skin and bone. For basic butchering, these two tools are all that is needed to break an animal down into eatable pieces. If expanding to offer more professional butchering services, processing equipment in the form of tenderizers and grinders will allow the user to make cubed steaks and ground meat or burger. Coupled with a sausage-stuffing machine, the grinder can be used to create sausage and other cased-type meats, such as salami.

One of the most expensive types of meat processing equipment for most buyers is a smoker curing oven. This equipment allows the user to make smoked meats such as hams, bacon and jerky. It also allows fish to be smoked and cured along with a generous amount of other uses. Another piece of meat processing equipment essential in the storage of the product is a quality cooler or freezer. Many butchers actually prefer to chill or freeze the meat prior to processing, as the colder product cuts easily and better retains its shape or position for cutting.

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Discussion Comments

By stl156 — On Jul 27, 2011

@Emilski - Interesting question. I actually used to know someone who processed deer every year. I watched him do it a few times, but I'm not sure how it compares to someone working in an actual butcher shop. The process could get pretty grisly, so I'll spare the details.

Since both of the animals are similar in terms of body type and organ location, I would assume there are few differences in the overall process. I don't think that deer yield good meat from all of the places that a cow would, though, so I figure there are differences in the areas that are butchered. A lot of deer meat goes into making jerky and sausage, also.

Reading the article and thinking about this question did get me thinking about how you would make a small scale butchering business. Am I correct in thinking that if you wanted to butcher animals and sell them from a home based shop, you would have to adhere to the same regulations as a supermarket, or are there special regulations for small scale butchers? Also, how much would it cost to start something like this? Is there a market for things like second hand processing equipment and the like?

By Emilski — On Jul 26, 2011

I live in an area where deer hunting is a major activity. I think deer meat might be one of the best kinds of meat there is, but maybe that is only because I don't get to eat is as much as the other types of meats.

I know there are a lot of people who make a side business butchering deer and making different products, and I've always wondered how something like venison meat processing worked compared to a regular butcher. Has anyone had any experience having a deer processed? Do they go through a lot of the same routines, or are there different processes based on the animal and the fact that a deer processor isn't working at a larger scale like a market?

By jcraig — On Jul 25, 2011

I always think it's interesting to learn about the behind the scenes action that goes into making our food.

About how much meat actually comes away after a butcher cuts up the various animals? For example, after butcher a cow, how much actual meat product is sold, and how much is bones, scraps, and organs? What about for a chicken or pig? Of course, some organs like beef liver or chicken gizzards can be popular.

By cardsfan27 — On Jul 25, 2011

Great article. I never realized the tools that were needed to cut meat.

I'm curious about the types of knives that are used to cut the pieces of meat. Does a butcher use a typical chef's knife or utility knife like would be found in most knife sets, or do special knives exist for the purpose of butchering meat? Maybe something along the lines of a large filet knife, but for beef.

Along the same lines. Are there different types of knives that need to be used for beef compared to poultry or even something like veal or lamb?

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