Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production
processing plant

Consider cost of ownership when choosing antimicrobials.

Posted November 08, 2021 by Dr. Steve Larsen, technical Services Manager
Food Safety

The safety of the food produced in processing facilities is a significant burden of responsibility for owners and all employees. Consumers trust the safety of the food they eat, but with this safety comes a long list of interventions that happen behind the scenes in processing facilities. One of those key interventions is the use of antimicrobials to reduce pathogen load.

Antimicrobials are a processing aid used to reduce foodborne pathogen contamination at different points of the processing system. They can be classified as corrosive and non-corrosive. Corrosive products, such as peracetic acid (PAA), are effective at reducing pathogen load, but can be harmful to equipment, especially older equipment that is not made of stainless steel. They can also have negative impacts on employee health.

Non-corrosive antimicrobials, such as DBDMH, are equally as effective, but have a reduced negative impact on equipment wear and tear and employee health and welfare. For more details, review study results demonstrating the non-corrosive nature of BoviBrom, one of the DBDMH product solutions available from ARM & HAMMER™.

Fixed and variable costs.

When making a decision about which antimicrobials to use, it´s important to consider the true cost of ownership and the impact of the antimicrobial intervention on the processing system as a whole. When considering the true cost of ownership, take fixed and variable costs into consideration.

Processing facilities have high fixed costs due to the amount of up-front capital, in the form of concrete and equipment, it takes to build and run a facility. These costs don´t change over time but are impacted when a piece of equipment is replaced. Variable costs are those that are expensed and paid for on a regular basis, such as labor, livestock and supplies.

Processing facilities vary in terms of age, size, throughput, species processed and a variety of other factors. The type of equipment is different as well. Some facilities, especially older facilities, have non-stainless steel equipment. This equipment is more susceptible to corrosion, which can cause equipment failures. This can result in the need to replace parts or the entire piece of equipment altogether at a faster rate.

Stainless vs. non-stainless equipment.

When considering fixed costs as a part of the cost of ownership, it is important to take into account the amount of non-stainless steel equipment in your facility and the timeline for when it will need to be repaired or replaced. It is likely that the non-stainless steel equipment will need to be repaired or replaced at a faster rate than the stainless equipment, which will raise the cost of ownership of that piece of equipment. This fixed cost analysis needs to be part of the decision-making process when deciding between a corrosive or non-corrosive antimicrobial.

When comparing the financial impact of antimicrobials, consider two important factors:

  • The cost of the product over time. Non-corrosive antimicrobials are generally more expensive than corrosive products so will have a larger impact on variable costs.
  • The costs of wear and tear on equipment caused by the product. These are long-term costs that will have a significant impact on fixed costs.

While non-corrosive products such as DBDMH can cost more initially replacement costs are lower, which will have a more significant impact over time. This is especially important as the cost of steel and other resources goes up, and the availability of replacement parts becomes more tenuous with supply chain disruption.

Impact on labor.

While DBDMH makes sense to use in facilities with non-stainless steel equipment, it also is safer to use for employees than corrosive chemistries. Labor availability and retention continue to be a significant challenge in processing facilities, which makes DBDMH more attractive.

The use of non-corrosive products should also be considered in beef and pork processing facilities where more robust equipment is used. The cost of equipment per animal processed is much higher in these facilities, and that relative value of equipment replacement costs dictates what can be paid upfront for antimicrobials. That is why there is a higher rate of adoption of non-corrosive products in beef and pork facilities.

In conclusion, owners should appreciate out-of-pocket costs versus those that aren't observed on a daily basis. This consideration is important for long-term viability of the operation. Non-corrosive products may be more expensive upfront but can reduce long-term equipment expenses. They are also safe for employees to use, which can help sustain a workforce in an era when labor remains a challenge.

The recent past has taught us that paying a little more up front to sustain throughout and avoid disruptions is a critically important factor. Contact us to discuss the financial impact that non-corrosive antimicrobials could have in your facility.




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About Dr. Steve Larsen

Dr. Steve Larsen currently serves as senior technical services manager for Arm & Hammer Animal and Food Production. Dr. Larsen has an extensive background in food safety including working for the National Pork Board and at Tyson Foods. Dr. Larsen holds his PhD in Veterinary Microbiology from Iowa State University.



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