Germany is a fan of the I-Cut 11 PortionCutter

Ten generations strong, Winterhalter butchery stays future-ready with Marel

Sebastian Winterhalter2

“Best of our homeland” and a woman wearing a traditional Black Forest hat with big red woolen pompoms—these immediately catch your eye when you visit the website of Metzgerei Gustav Winterhalter GmbH. Located in Elzach in Southwest Germany, this longstanding traditional butchery was founded in 1856 and was recently nominated by the Freiburg Chamber of Crafts as the Craft Company of the Year 2021.

A family-run butchery renowned for regional specialties

Winterhalter is a proud family business now in its 10th generation, with Sebastian Winterhalter taking the reins in 2018. The company works closely with local farmers, slaughters its own products and relies on high-quality regional ingredients and absolute freshness, which is checked daily by specialist staff. All products are produced in-house, from slaughtering to the ready-to-sell product, and are sold at Winterhalter’s 10 sales outlets situated within a 30 km (19 mi) radius of the parent company in Elzach,

Winterhalter butchery is known for its extensive range of specialties including cured sausage and ham specialties such as traditional Black Forest ham and air-dried Elztal ham. In addition, the range includes numerous cooked ham products, boiled and cooked sausages in all variations, as well as a wide variety of other delicacies such as cranberry liver pâté.

This wide range is supported by Winterhalter’s customer base, which is mainly made up of quality-conscious end consumers. These shoppers visit the traditional specialist butcher stores specifically to purchase the first-class, regionally produced meat and sausage products on offer.

A successful longstanding partnership

For generations, Winterhalter has relied on skinners, portion cutters and flake ice machines from MAJA. Since 2018, MAJA-Maschinenfabrik has been part of Marel.

In Winterhalter’s production, for example, one can find a MAJA RVH 800 Flake Ice Machine, whose ice is used in scalded sausage production to cool the sausage meat during the cutter process. “Our MAJA flake ice machine is very stable and reliable. The hygiene of the machine is also outstanding,” says Sebastian, praising the system.

MAJA Flake Ice Bowl Cutter

Winterhalter uses MAJA flake ice for the production of traditional boiled and cooked sausage delicacies.

I-Cut 11 portion cutter delivers automated quantity and quality

Since June 2021, an I-Cut 11 from Marel has also been in operation at the Elzach production plant. This has allowed Winterhalter to automate portioning of cutlets and steaks from pork necks and backs and streamline the production of beef rump steaks. Demand for portioned fresh meat fluctuates depending on the season, so up to 400 kg (882 lb) are cut daily.

Sebastian explains that the I-Cut 11 has been integral to increasing capacity while maintaining excellent quality. “In the past, we used to cut everything manually: schnitzels, steaks and cordon bleu. We mainly supply our own stores with the pre-portioned goods. When we decided to automate, our goal was to be able to cut larger quantities as quickly and accurately as possible and to have a machine that could be used for our different products.

To achieve this, it was important that there was a high degree of flexibility when changing portions and that the machine could be cleaned easily between work processes. Of course, we also saw opportunities to optimize our giveaway due to the accuracy of the I-Cut 11.”

The changes have been well received by consumers, says Sebastian. “Automated cutting also offers very decisive advantages for our customers, because now we can always offer the consumer the same steaks or cutlets. Thinking into the future, we can also offer equalized portions. The accuracy and consistent size of the meat portions are really well received by the end consumer. As people are cooking more again, demand is also increasing for prepared, finished products that customers can prepare at home with little effort, such as the traditional Sauerbraten [marinated beef roast], breaded schnitzel, etc.”

Marel gives proven results for future challenges

The automation of portion cutting also offers advantages that go well beyond the product range. In terms of the shortage of skilled workers, one of the biggest challenges facing companies like Winterhalter, it is also advantageous if simple processes such as cutting uniform portions of meat can be automated without the need for skilled personnel. “Because in the future, one of the defining challenges will be the recruitment of skilled workers as well as their loyalty to the company,” explains Sebastian.

Sebastian Winterhalter, Gustav Winterhalter GmbH

Sebastian Winterhalter of Gustav Winterhalter GmbH, the traditional butchery for Black Forest specialties in Elzach, Germany

The fact that the new Marel technology could be trialled and examined in real operation in advance made the investment decision in favor of the I-Cut 11 much easier. The Gustav Winterhalter company in Elzach is only 70 km away from MAJA, the Marel site in Kehl-Goldscheuer. Winterhalter has enjoyed a partnership with MAJA for generations, so it was only natural to test the function and cutting results with Winterhalter’s own raw materials at the Marel MAJA premises.

The enormous flexibility to switch effortlessly from one product to the next was the decisive factor in Winterhalter’s decision in favor of the I-Cut 11 portioning technology.

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