Okay… from here… this is where things got really exciting for me! (And, these folks at the Pederson’s plant may think I’m nuts for my sheer excitement over this, but it was WAY cool. They see it every day. I see it, oh… never.) Anyway, on this Friday that I visited, all the action was in the packaging room. They had those machines cranked up. They were bacon makin’ fools that day!
Here’s what was happening (as best I could tell). They’d take those racks of seasoned, tumbled, smoked & chilled bellies, and they’d wheel ’em on in to the packaging room. From there, there was a fellow putting each belly, one by one, in to a machine that pressed them. And, what exactly that machine does and why… I don’t know. I’m going with the context clues and assuming it literally pressed the bellies, thus compacting them. (I asked questions… I promise. It’s just that it was loud in there, and there were a lot of steps involved. I’m scatter brained, remember? And feeling like a fourth grader on a field trip.)
Here’s the man “manning” the pressing machine:
And, the results:
Now, from here, I’m told that the bellies have to be chilled from 18° to 20° for the next step. (But, is it called “chilling” if it’s actually an increase in temperature by 2°? Oh… the juvenile questions that pop into my head.) I hear they have to be a very specific temperature for each step in the process, which I find quite interesting since it’s as little as a 2° difference. I’d love to know the reasons for all of that.
Okay, anyway… so, there’s a gentleman that takes the pressed bellies and places them on the little belt that feeds it right into the machine that cuts it into bacon slices. (Was that a run-on sentence?) And, there’s a guy that stands on the other end of that machine greeting the slices and placing the correct amount on each “L” board (that’s the fancy, technical name for the bacon packaging… I think). And, here’s another thing that’s super cool… Pederson’s is SERIOUS about their quality control. Each slice is held to certain specs. Each package is held to certain specs. You can rest assured that you will have the exact number of perfect slices per package.
And, as the “L” board makes it’s way down the line, there are folks along the way making sure each package is perfect… perfectly aligned and ready to be wrapped in film.
Into the machine that wraps it up, and out it comes! Now, this area of the line was difficult for me to photograph. (Bummer!) But waiting on the other side of that machine for the now perfectly wrapped up packages of bacon is the quality control expert. I’m told they can tell if the package is weight-wise incorrect by feel alone. Wow! That’s pretty impressive to me. We are talking ounces here… or a portion of an ounce. I’d love to have that skill. I really, really would. Maybe that would be my superhero power if I could choose one. 🙂
So, from the quality control expert, the packages can go one of two places. If all specs are met, they go to be boxed. If the package has too little or too much bacon, or if some of the slices got in there a little wonky, it’s sent over to a couple ladies to “fix it”. These ladies open the package and add or remove bacon as needed or straighten it out. They stack the second chance “L” boards and then send them back to be wrapped again.
Back to quality control they go. At this point, they’re sure to pass specs, and so they go on to be boxed. There are an average of 16 packages of bacon per box which equals about one pork belly. Interesting, huh? But, before these cases of bacon get sent out anywhere, they are passed through a metal detector. Passing the product through a metal detector before it ships out is a standard required by several vendors, and Pederson’s is happy to oblige.
Once the metal detector gives the all clear, the cases are stacked on pallets and ready to be shipped to your local grocery store.
I love this. I just love knowing where my bacon is coming from. And, the thing is… you can bet Pederson’s is my bacon from now on. I loved the stuff before, but seeing how it’s all done and the standards they uphold… I’m sold. Since touring the Pederson’s plant, I’ve actually Googled and watched videos on how bacon is made. The Pederson’s process is SO different… far superior. It’s not ever dipped in anything or injected with anything. The flavors are natural. You’ll not find that paper thin piece of bacon in their packages that falls apart when you try to pull it up for cooking. It doesn’t shrink up and shrivel to next to nothing because they use superior quality pork bellies. (The fat to lean ratio is way better than other bacons.) If you think about it, you’re getting more bang for your buck with Pederson’s because you’re actually getting more meat in the end. And, this girl here? I’m slightly obsessive about cleanliness. I would not hesitate to feed my kiddos this bacon having seen where it comes from and how it’s produced. So, yeah… WAY excited about this little educational trip to Pederson’s. This is definitely the best field trip I’ve been on in a while. 😉