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Optimally packaged fine ham

Henning Basedahl’s business card simply states “Schinkenhöker” as his profession – which means “small dealer” in Plattdeutsch dialect. His ham factory, however, is not small, and produces 20,000 top-quality hams annually.

Basedahl, owner of the company in Hollenstedt, a small town between Hamburg and Bremen, is the second generation of his family to produce a special delicacy – an ­exceptionally mild yet spicy ham. Its light smoky aroma is the icing on the cake. Basedahl makes just as few ­compromises in packaging as he does in the production of his ham. He was one of the first producers to obtain the new R5 RD 0360 A rotary vane vacuum pump from Busch Vacuum Solutions. It was installed for his chamber vacuum machine so that he could achieve the best packaging ­results.

The Basedahl ham factory ­produces around 20,000 hams ­annually. As the word “manufactory” suggests, the company still makes everything by hand. The wares are sold in the company’s own small shop directly in Hollenstedt. In the greater Hamburg area, Basedahl sells its ­specialty to selected retailers and ­delicatessens, delivering them with his own vehicle. But retailers and ­delicatessens throughout Germany are also among his customers. Käfer Feinkost in Munich has been supplied by Basedahl since 1990. Strict quality control guarantees the high quality of Basedahl ham. Generally, only hams from sows raised on Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia or Danish farms and slaughtered in two ­regional slaughterhouses are used. Each ham is checked by Basedahl himself. The selection is strict. ­Sometimes, one fourth of a raw ham delivery is returned to the ­slaughterhouse because it does not meet quality requirements.

The recipe, according to the ham specialists from Hollenstedt, is ­simple. The ingredients are salt, smoke, love and time – and of course rigid quality controls and careful handwork.

Shrink packaging

Packaging is carried out three days a week, seven hours each day. Shrink bags are used to package units from 50 g to 8 kg. The chamber volume is dimensioned so that it can process four 8 kg bags at once.

The packaging machine’s previous vacuum pump had a suction capacity of 300 m3 per hour and reached a ­theoretical final pressure of 0.5 millibar. Felix Engel, plant manager at ­Basedahl and responsible for technology among other things, saw that with increasing age, this vacuum pump no longer reached the specified final pressure and was also losing oil. In addition, it was very loud, and its heat radiation had to be dissipated via the air conditioning system. It was thus deinstalled and placed one floor above the packaging machine. This at least solved the problem with the oil and noise emission. However, the ­vacuum level in the packaging chamber could not be improved even by ­extending the evacuation times.

Faster packing

Thus, Felix Engel started looking for an alternative in 2017. He found it in the R5 RD 0360 A rotary vane vacuum pump from Busch Vacuum Solutions, which had just been brought to market. The newly developed vacuum pump wasn’t officially presented by Busch until the IFFA in Frankfurt. In August 2017, one of the first vacuum pumps of this type was installed at Basedahl. It has a suction capacity of 300 m3 per hour and is driven by a 5.1-kW motor. The motor in the previous vacuum pump from another manufacturer had a slightly larger motor with 5.5 kW. At 0.1 millibar, the new vacuum pump from Busch achieves a lower vacuum than the previous vacuum pump. In the packaging itself, a vacuum level of 5 to 7 millibar is completely sufficient, but the suction capacity and final end-pressure of a vacuum pump depend on one another. The lower the final pressure reached by a vacuum pump, the higher the pumping speed at the pressure the packaging performed at: 5 to 7 millibars. This technical reality has the practical advantage of reducing evacuation times at a lower final pressure, thus accelerating the packaging cycle. Felix Engel was pleased to note this immediately after installing the new vacuum pump.

The new pump also emits less noise. While the previous vacuum pump had a noise level of 76 dB(A), the R5 RD 0360 A runs at 70 dB(A). With the new development of the R5 RD series, Busch has also developed a new oil separation concept and ­optimized the filtration, adapting it for Busch’s synthetic VSL oil. This ­polyalphaolefin (PAO) based oil is ­specially designed for rotary vane ­vacuum pumps used to vacuum ­package foods. It is certified ­according to NSF standard H1 and has a service life four times longer than comparable mineral oils. Felix Engel leaves the maintenance of the vacuum pump to a service technician from Busch. This work is done once a year as a precautionary measure. ­Otherwise, Engel relies on the quality of the pump, because he cannot ­afford downtime – the gourmets’ ­demand for the company’s hams is too high. Uli Merkle

Global Marketing, Busch Vacuum Solutions

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