McCain Foods makes up to 4000 frozen meals an hour

MCCAIN’S prepared food plant is effectively two plants in one.

One section produces lasagna and other meals in bowls or trays, and another concentrates on pizzas.

Plant manager prepared food Michael Smith looks after both.

The main dish being produced along the prepared food line during our visit was lamb cutlets with mash potato, vegetables and sauce. 

And right from go, it looks like any other form of non-processed food. 

The lamb cutlets come from a local supplier, while the vegetables are from another plant in New Zealand. The mash and the sauces are made in-house in Ballarat.

As the plastic plates move along the conveyor belt, the lamb cutlets are placed on manually by the workers while a machine accurately weighs out the vegetable portions. It is as straight forward as that. Then a clear film is placed over the plastic plates.

Mr Smith says 4000 meals can be produced in an hour.

The pizza process is a bit more involved. Dough is mixed along the crust line using flour, water, yeast and a premix of other ingredients. It is then loaded into a hopper and then goes to what is called the proofing area for pre-cooking.

The long thin line of dough is then cut into pizza-sized circles, which are baked for seven to eight minutes at a rate of 100 pizzas a minute.

During our visit, it was McCain’s supreme pizza that was on the menu, with tomato paste, cheese, ham, capsicum and mushrooms. 

The tomato is applied to the base as it rolls along the conveyor belt, then another machine adds the toppings, and finally it is boxed up and palletted out.

A high level of hygiene is strictly adhered to throughout the process, with one person employed to check everything is within specification, even as other workings keep an eye on the process. 

There is even a metal detector at the final check. 

It is so impressive that, after seeing the process in action, I am actually far more inclined to eat the food than I was before the tour.