Mixer grinders are important tools in the meat processing industry and are part of many meat processing lines.
The ability to cut meat, mix in additives and preservatives, and extrude into a variety of shapes and casings makes mixer grinders valuable for producing everything from sausage and hot dogs to ground beef and pet food.
There are few facilities that do not have some kind of mixer grinder to optimize the production of their meat product.
While this equipment is popular in the meat processing world, there’s still one question that comes up again and again: do you need an enterprise or unger cutting system?
How Meat Grinders Work
A mixer grinder is a fascinating piece of equipment.
In its simplest form, a meat grinder forces meat or meat trimmings through a horizontally mounted cylinder by means of an auger. At the end of the cylinder is cutting system consisting of star-shaped knives rotating with the auger and perforated disks, known as grinding plates.
The meat is compressed by the auger, pushed through the cutting system, and extrudes through the holes in the grinding plates after being cut by the revolving star knives.
Once the meat is extruded through the grinding plates and out of the machine, it can be stuffed into casings or placed on trays, depending on the product being produced.
Smaller mixer grinders, especially manual grinders, tend to have a single star knife and grinding plate, while larger industrial models tend to have multiple stars and grinding plates.
Cutting Systems Explained
It’s this difference in the number of stars and grinding plates that make up the enterprise and unger cutting systems.
Enterprise Cutting System
The enterprise cutting system is mainly used in small meat grinders with openings up to 98mm in diameter and consists of a single star knife, sharpened only on the side facing the disc, and one grinder plate.
Manual meat grinders, those you’ll find attached to a table and need to crank by hand, and intermediate size electrical grinders often are equipped with the enterprise cutting system. These models are most suited for use in the home and for commercial, small scale operations.
This system is most commonly used in meat processing facilities in America.
Looking at the image above, the enterprise cutting system is comprised of:
- 9 – Feed Screw or Auger that compresses the meat and pushes it through the cylinder and to the cutting system
- 10 – Star knife blade that cuts the meat
- 11 – Grinder (hole) plate that extrudes the cut meat
Unger Cutting System
The unger cutting system is a bit more complex and is used in meat grinders with opening diameters up to 440mm. The unger cutting system consists of two star knives sharpened on both edges and three grinder hole plates, each with different size holes to make the grinds smaller.
Large industrial meat grinders, those with grinder plate holes ranging from 114-400mm, as well as mixer grinders with large hoppers, tend to be outfitted with an unger cutting system. These models are most suited for large food processing facilities.
This system is most commonly used in meat processing facilities in Europe.
You can purchase Unger cutting systems in either double (2 plates, 1 blade) or triple cut (3 plates, 2 blades) versions.
Looking at the image above, the unger cutting system is comprised of:
- 9 – Feed Screw
- 14 – First hole plate (Kidney plate)
- 15 – Star knife blade
- 16 – Second hole plate
- 17 – Second Star knife blade
- 18 – Third hole plate
- 19 – Stud
- 20 – Distance Ring
Make Your Choice
Understanding how a mixer grinder works, as well as the differences between cutting systems, goes a long way to help you choose which cutting system is right for your application and product.
Most American processors choose the enterprise cutting system, while most processors in Europe choose the unger cutting system, but geographic location isn’t the only variable.
Knowing your product and the cut you’re trying to achieve should be the main factor in determining which cutting system is right for you.