One percenters drive Oakey

Innovations drive efficiencies at Oakey meatworks


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BETTER BEEF: Oakey Beef Exports general manager Pat Gleeson says it's all about identifying and implementing the one percenters to constantly improve the efficiency of the business.

BETTER BEEF: Oakey Beef Exports general manager Pat Gleeson says it's all about identifying and implementing the one percenters to constantly improve the efficiency of the business.

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Oakey Beef focuses on identifying and implementing the one percenters to constantly improve the efficiency of the business.

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FOR Oakey Beef Exports general manager Pat Gleeson it’s all about the one percenters. Fine tuning an already sophisticated meat processing facility into an even more efficient business.

That means value adding every possible part of a carcase using whatever technology is available.

“We like to think we use everything but the bellow by getting every bit of value we possibly can,” Mr Gleeson said.

One significant innovation has been the introduction of technology that more accurately enables trimming to be packed precisely according a customers chemically lean (CL) requirements. That figure is a declaration of the meat to fat ratio and is important in food processing, particularly in patty manufacturing. 

Workers in action at Oakey Beef Exports.

Workers in action at Oakey Beef Exports.

“We need to pack exactly what’s on the box otherwise we can get hit by some pretty hefty penalties,” Mr Gleeson said.

“It’s not so bad if we have too much meat in the box, but that costs us money. The problem is if we have too much fat. If we get the CL exactly right it is best for both our customers and our bottom line.”

Another innovation is recently introduced machinery that strips any remaining shreds of meat from bones.

Vivian Cooper at worked at Oakey for 42 years.

Vivian Cooper at worked at Oakey for 42 years.

“If we send it for rendering it is worth about 50c/kg,” Mr Gleeson said. “The meat we collect may be more of a lower grade product but it is still worth $2/kg, and that makes a big difference.”  

However, perhaps one of the most effective developments on the processing floor are the hydraulically driven platforms used by the boners. Unlike many other major processing plants, Oakey’s boners work on either a complete side or quarter of a carcase. 

The platforms are in constant movement as the boners adjust their working position to best suit the part of the carcase they are working on. They also use the power of the platforms where physical strength was previously required.     

PREMIUM BEEF: Cathy Uechtritz (centre) from New Hope Group with Kurt Wockner and Pat Gleeson from Oakey Beef Exports.

PREMIUM BEEF: Cathy Uechtritz (centre) from New Hope Group with Kurt Wockner and Pat Gleeson from Oakey Beef Exports.

Mr Gleeson said an ongoing threat was increasing energy prices, which was a major cost to the business.

“Oakey is a very strong supporter of the stage three development at the New Acland coal mine,” Mr Gleeson said. 

“Like just about every other meat processor we use high quality coal to fire our boilers because there is so much hot water needed throughout the plant.

Boners working on the powered, variable height working platforms.

Boners working on the powered, variable height working platforms.

“In our operation it may only be 28 tonnes or so a week, but if stage three at New Acland doesn’t go ahead it means we will need to source the coal from Clermont or Gunnedah at a higher cost. We need that relationship to continue.” 

Oakey processes about 1000 cattle a day, including just under two day’s supply from the company’s 70,000 head capacity Whyalla Feedlot at Texas. 

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