The U.S. meat and poultry industry employs about 500,000 people, nearly 119,000 of whom work in meat processing plants that produce pre-cooked sausages, ham, hot dogs, bacon, sliced meats, and the like. To ensure the safety of these products, meat processors must comply with strict USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulatory guidelines. To verify that these guidelines are met and to identify ways to improve their processes, large-volume meat processors engage consulting engineers to test their ovens and provide hard data that proves compliance, and can be used to improve effectiveness and efficiencies. A process engineer working in the meat industry had been using expensive, sometimes poorly designed, or unreliable data loggers to monitor oven and meat product temperatures in forced-air convection ovens (smokehouses), so he looked for a better solution.


Around fourteen years ago, the engineer discovered HOBO U12 temperature loggers and has been using them ever since. Featuring a food-grade stainless steel housing, these self-contained, durable loggers are ideal for applications where high-accuracy temperature data is critical. The loggers have a long battery life, can record up to 43,000 measurements, and are available in two models: the HOBO U12-015 and the HOBO U12-015-02, which includes a 5-inch probe to measure internal meat product temperatures. Both models have a direct USB interface for launching the logger and read out data with HOBOware computer software. HOBOware also indicates to the user when battery levels are getting low, thereby eliminating the risk of conducting complicated tests and studies, only to end up with a lack of data due to expired battery life.


Given the reliable, accurate results from the HOBO U12 loggers (which are rated for temperatures from -40° to 257°F) the engineer continues to use the U12s for all his work in smokehouses, measuring dry-bulb and wet-bulb temperatures of the ovens, as well as surface and core temperatures of the products. The temperature data is used for compliance with USDA Appendix A food safety guidelines, to ensure that the product is being cooked to a temperature that kills pathogens. The data is also used for process improvement analysis, to see how quickly the product denatures, dries, and develops smoke color. Since he began using the HOBO loggers, the engineer has not once had the displeasure of reliving past experiences of unexpectedly running out of data logger battery life or losing data in the middle of an expensive, painstaking production test. He also reports that the batteries in the HOBO U12 loggers last him well beyond the estimated three-year battery life.

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