Best option for vacuum sealer for startup sausage company

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Best option for vacuum sealer for startup sausage company

Postby HeXeD » Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:02 pm

Figured this would be the place to start. Please let me know if my understanding of this is correct, or if I am in left field and there is a better/cheaper way of doing this.

I am currently starting a sausage making company, and have realized that to do retail sales, or more specifically, internet sales where I would be shipping product, I would need a good vacuum sealer. I am assuming that retail sales locally, there would be no problem wrapping the sausage in butcher paper and selling. For internet sales, or if we end up selling at Whole Foods, sprouts, etc, we would need vacuum sealed packaging. The largest size sausage I will be selling is probably close to 15 inches long and 2-2 1/2" in diameter (Andouille). Everything else would be much smaller. I have been looking at chamber vacuum seal equipment since they just seem "better" but as a startup company, I just don't have the 1K minimum to drop on a used vacuum chamber. So here are my questions.

1. Do I "NEED" a chamber sealer? Would I be better off with a tabletop regular vacuum sealer like the Pro-2300? Since I am selling individual sticks of sausage, would that change anything (Seeing that I need bags/plastic that could be 4"x15")?

2. Speaking of the bags, I rarely see bags that are thinner in width, such as a 4" bag. Most are 8" if you need to go 15" in length. What would be my best bet for bags?

3. And the last question.. due to my inexperience of shipping cooked meats, do I NEED a vacuum sealer? I would assume so but there might be a more cost effective way of doing things that some of you may know about.
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Postby wheels » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:39 pm

You don't say where you are HeXeD, but certainly in the UK, the difference in the price of bags between the two types is massive. The none chamber ribbed bags are about 10 times the price.

HTH

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Postby HeXeD » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:40 pm

Oh sorry.. I am in the US.. in Texas

So probably better to go with the chamber than the regular kind if I can recoupe the cost on materials while at the same time having a superior vacuum sealer. Just that the 1K used price tag is pretty rough.. but ya gotta expect to spend money to make it.

Any other ideas would be appreciated
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Postby wheels » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:52 pm

The price of bags in the US seems to be as bad as here. See:

http://www.sausagemaker.com/vacuumsealbags.aspx

for an idea of the price of ribbed bags. You may be cheaper to go for a chamber machine from the start.

I'm in the UK though, so I'll leave it to our US based members to advise further.

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Postby Oddwookiee » Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:56 pm

I'm a commercial operation in Oregon. You will absolutely want a quality chamber vacuum sealer from day 1. We bought our first one the first year we opened up the doors and are up to 3 of them now and all have more then paid for themselves. The little home 'food saver' models are crap and will most likely not be allowed for commercial use anyway by your state inspector, let alone the federal inspector. Unless it's made for commercial use, you're flirting with disaster.

For local sales I'd still recommend vacuum sealing your products. It's more convenient for the customer and makes display a lot easier on your part. If you're doing strictly dried, that may be another thing, but I vacuum seal all my cured & smoked items for sale in the home store as well as for taking to the farmer's market.

Bag sizes are an easy one- look for a local distributor and they can get any size you want. Look up meat products, meat processing products, supply, paper supplies, anything of that sort. I have 2 companies I buy vac pouches from, one is my spice guy the other is my paper supplier. I have a number of sizes I use, from 2.5x8 (2 snack sticks) to 40x30 (whole hams).

If you're shipping, then yes, you will want it vacuum sealed. God only knows what it may come in contact with and pick up off flavors from, so sealing is a must, not to mention the sheer cleanliness and convenience for your customers.

Something to bear in mind is inspectors. If you ship strictly inside TX, you only need a state inspection and federal inspection periodically, depending on your state laws. If you ship over the state line, get ready for a whole ream of regulation. At that point you have to be certified as (or use a) USDA inspected facility, and all intake, production, packaging and storage have to be done under a federal inspector's eyes. I could make a boatload more money then I do, but the red tape involved with internet shipping is not worth it for me.
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Postby BriCan » Sun Oct 21, 2012 3:39 am

Oddwookiee wrote:Something to bear in mind is inspectors. If you ship strictly inside TX, you only need a state inspection and federal inspection periodically, depending on your state laws. If you ship over the state line, get ready for a whole ream of regulation. At that point you have to be certified as (or use a) USDA inspected facility, and all intake, production, packaging and storage have to be done under a federal inspector's eyes. I could make a boatload more money then I do, but the red tape involved with internet shipping is not worth it for me.


Just curios on the shipping across state lines -- I know that I can ship up to but not a gram over 50 lbs across provincial borders as well as to destinations across the US boarder (info from CFIA source who did the cross border inspections) -- so long as it was for personal use and not for retail ---- thoughts?
But what do I know
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Postby Oddwookiee » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:16 pm

Personal shipping is one thing, but there's a transparency of transaction that'll bite you in the butt. If you ship as Bob Smith, private person, out of state, you can manage it. If you ship as Bob Smith Sausages out of state without the inspection, that's where it's illegal. If you make up a package to a Bob Smith Sausage customer, then close the business for the day and ship it as Bob Smith private person to skirt the law, the feds (if you get caught) will hammer you flat. That's a short road to a big red bow on your front door and prosecution. I don't mess with it, the fines and possibility of losing my life's work are not worth the few dollars.

As for whoever you're asking, unless you go to the USDA and talk to them, it's all worthless. They're the ones with the 'power to loose and bind' as they say. Go straight to the top and save all kinds of hassles. I asked my fed inspector directly about it this last year because I have customers who buy my beef jerky to ship to family members in the service overseas. I'm allowed to seal and freeze the items for a private customer, but they have to mail it themselves. PITA loophole, but there you are.
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