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Meat Market Fixtures And Equipment

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Comparing a meat market of the year 1890 to our modern present day market, a great change is noticeable. The tendency in modern meat market equipment is towards better sanitation.

Reasons for Sanitation

Our present day standards of living call for sanitation in our daily life. Market owners building their own homes, insist upon tile walls and floors in their bathrooms, and on porcelain enameled bath tubs. Kitchen sinks are of white enamel because food is handled there. In the bath room, however, no food is handled, but if one compares the bathrooms of many meat market owners to their meat market, one wonders why so much stress is laid upon sanitation in bath rooms when it is absolutely ignored in the meat market where nothing but food is handled.

The modern barber shop, where no food is handled, is very sanitarily equipped. Why should not a meat market where nothing but food is sold be the most sanitary place of business in existence?

Demand for Sanitary Markets

That sanitation, more modern market equipment and a highly sanitary store is good business, is evidenced by the great number of fine retail markets which are coming more and more into existence. Market owners who have equipped their markets in the most sanitary manner are a benefit to the meat industry in more than one way. If the public will insist on and patronize the sanitary market, it will neglect the old-fashioned, unsanitary market, and gradually but surely force out of business market owners who will not live up to our modern standards of sanitation.

The time is here when the public will insist on and will patronize these modern markets. Therefore, inasmuch, as larger capital investment will be required to start such modern markets, there will be fewer markets opened and started. For that reason, market owners who set an example with modern sanitary stores are a benefit to the industry. This will force the unsanitary market to either improve or go out of business because the trade will naturally patronage the sanitary market.

Differences in Market Equipment

There is considerable difference in the type of market equipment and the styles which are used differ in the various localities. Certain types of equipment in use in California are hardly found elsewhere. The same may be said of Greater New York and of the Mid-west. Tradition has influenced somewhat, the equipment which has been used in the past. From the stand-point of modern sanitary equipment, the state of California deserves the honor of paying more attention to the proper displaying of meats in various types of modern sanitary counters, than any other section of the United States.

A market lay-out such as is adaptable to lower California would not do, however, in North Dakota, for instance, because climatic conditions are entirely different. The types of counters used in lower California are hardly found elsewhere. This is also partly due to the favorable climatic condition in that part part of the United States. Therefore, there is no general rule as to what type of equipment for counters, or refrigerators is standard in the industry, excepting, of course, standard machinery. But equipment, such as counters and refrigerators must be built to meet the conditions of a given locality.

The Market Refrigerator

From the standpoint of the cost of doing business, expense for refrigeration in a meat market has perhaps appeared to be too important. Generally the expense item for refrigeration amounts to approximately 1% on sales. This figure will, of course, be slightly increased in exceptionally warm climates.

Under such expense for refrigeration, the waste which may be caused by poor refrigeration or by a poor refrigerator is, of course, not included. From this standpoint, however, when losses due to poor refrigeration are taken into consideration, the refrigerator becomes a very important item.


The subject of refrigerators is such an extensive one that volumes can be written on it. Therefore, the principal features of interest to the meat retailer are briefly enumerated. Refrigerators may be classified into two kinds:

1. The typical or sectional refrigerator.

2. The built-in or stationary refrigerator.

Irrespective of the kind of refrigerator installed in a meat market, there are three very important items which are necessary in order to have a successfully operating cooler. These are frequently overlooked by the market owner, who does not realize that refrigeration is an engineering science. In order to under-stand thoroughly the science of refrigeration, it requires years of study, the same as are required of any other engineering profession.

Irrespective of this fact, market owners frequently instruct local carpenters to build refrigerators for their market. Many have found this to be a very expensive proposition because the builder of the refrigerator was not versed in the science of refrigeration. There are also many meat retailers who claim that their home built refrigerators are very good, but if a new refrigerator had been installed which was built by reputable manufacturers who knew the science of refrigeration, they would discover that their home built refrigerators were a great expense. Therefore the value of a refrigerator can only be judged by comparison.

Three Points for a Good Refrigerator

The three principal items to be observed in the selection of a refrigerator are:

1. Insulation.

2. Circulation.

3. Workmanship.

Insulation may be defined as being products of various kinds which are used to allow the minimum of air to pass through the refrigerator walls. Products containing tiny dead air cells have been found to be very effective for this purpose. Such products are sheet cork, granulated cork, mineral wool, lith and various other insulation materials which are on the market.

Typical Air Circulation in Small Refrigerator

Refrigerating engineers usually estimate that 75% of the refrigeration, either by ice or mechanical, is consumed or used up by the heat passing through the refrigerator walls. This figure usually applies to the average typical market cooler where the products which are placed in the cooler have previously been refrigerated. The above percentage would not apply in a case where hot slaughtered beef and other carcasses are placed directly in the cooler. Since 75% of the refrigeration expenses are practically controlled by insulation, it becomes a very important factor.

Refrigerating engineers when estimating on refrigerators, use as a basis the British Thermal Unit. This applies either to refrigeration by ice or mechanically. In engineering practice this is known as the B. T. U. To the meat retailer, however, it will be confusing to figure out examples of refrigeration on such a basis. For that reason, examples showing the economy of good insulation are given in such language that the average retailer can understand.

Example of Value of Insulation

As an example, a refrigerator 10 by 10 by 10 feet in size, has a total outside wall surface of 600 square feet. This refrigerator is to be cooled and the refrigeraing machine is to operate during the day only. It, therefore, requires a one-ton machine, with a three horse-power motor, providing at least 4 inches of good insulating material is used in the construction of the walls.

It stands to reason that if this same size refrigerator is insulated with only 2 inches of the same insulating material, it would require, theoretically, 75% of double the size of a refrigerating plant to properly cool this refrigerator. Instead of buying a one-ton machine, the retailer will have to buy probably the next size to it, a two-ton machine requiring a five horse-power motor, and consuming considerably more power.

The increased initial money lay-out for a larger machine and the resulting additional operating expenses for the refrigerator are directly traceable in this case to insufficient insulation. It is very obvious that it is a good investment to insist upon the best of insulation in the refrigerator as it is the best economy in the end.


Equally as important as insulation is the circulation in a refrigerator. Cold air, being heavier than warm air, always travels downwards, and for that reason the circulation must be so arranged that the cold air will travel freely to all parts of the refrigerator, in order to cool all products to the maximum with the least variation of temperatures. Good circulation requires ample space around the ice, coils or brine tanks, whichever may be used, to allow cold air to travel and circulate freely.

Cold air being heavier than warm air, the height of a refrigerator is of considerable importance for good circulation. A high refrigerator will give comparatively better results than a low refrigerator. The circulation arrangement of the average type of refrigerator consists of a cold air duct or flue where the cold air descends, and a warm air flue for the warm air to rise. Therefore, in a refrigerator with proper circulation, the air travels in a continuous cycle.

The number of cold and warm air ducts or flues depends entirely upon the size of the cooler. In the average small market refrigerator, about 8 or 10 feet wide, cold and warm air ducts are usually located on the sides. In a refrigerator larger than this, there is usually a cold air duct in the center, where the cold air descends into the refrigerator and forces the warm air up through the flues on the sides.

A refrigerator may have perfect insulation, but if there is poor circulation of cold air, it will be found to be very detrimental to meats. Irrespective of temperatures in a refrigerator, it has been found that spoiling of meats is usually due to poor circulation. This is also the cause of moist and damp refrigerators, and therefore, has a very serious effect on the keeping of meats.

Poor circulation is usually caused by obstructions of the cold or warm air ducts. Very frequently, it is caused by the ice, coils or brine tanks being too close to the bunker floor. When mechanical refrigeration is used, poor circulation is frequently traceable to the over-frosting of the coils or tanks, thus pre-venting free circulation. It often results in frost forming underneath the bunker floor, which is very undesirable in a refrigerator.

Bunker Construction

The construction of the ice bunker or coil loft when mechanical refrigeration is to be used, is also of great importance for good circulation. Ice, coils or brine tanks are articles of much lower temperature than the air below the bunker floor and the temperature of the refrigerant. If for instance, mechanical refrigeration is used, the brine or the ammonia may have a temperature of from zero to 10 F., while the temperature below the bunker floor may be from 35 to 40 F. Therefore, the bunker floor must be built so as to separate the temperature below and above the bunker floor. For that reason, it has been found very advantageous to insulate the bunker floor to prevent condensation and aid good circulation.

Good Workmanship Required

The best of workmanship is absolutely necessary in the construction of a refrigerator as it has a great bearing upon the effectiveness of insulation and also the circulation. If loose insulating material is used, the construction should be such as to prevent the settling of the insulation. Doors, windows and joints should be constructed so as to be air tight, as air leaks are frequently the cause of improper circulation.

The best refrigerator builders used three thicknesses or more of glass for windows and window doors. Usually the exterior glass is 1/4 inch plate glass and double strength A-glass is used on the inside. The hardware should be heavily constructed so that it will stand rough usage. The interior of the refrigerator should be finished with odorless wood or finished off in the most sanitary manner.

The Built-in Refrigerator

As the name indicates, refrigerators of this type are constructed within the building, and are practically a part of the building. The most popular types of the built-in or stationary refrigerator are usually constructed of sheet insulating material, usually finished off both inside and outside, with cement.

The requirements as to insulation, circulation and workman-ship also apply to this type of refrigerator. The principal disadvantage lies in the fact that a refrigerator of this type cannot be removed like the sectional refrigerator. It has the advantage, however, of unusually lower initial cost which is due to an absence of cabinet work on the exterior. A further advantage is the fact that interior and exterior finish can be made to suit the wishes of the individual purchaser.

Exteriors may be finished off with white Keene cement, tile or white glass. The interior can be equally as well constructed to meet the most sanitary requirements. In the most modern types of built-in refrigerators, wood is entirely eliminated with the exception of the beams holding the coil lofts and the door and window frames.

Rat Proof Construction

Floors of such refrigerators are usually made water-proof and for that reason, the entire interior can be washed out with water frequently and kept absolutely sanitary. Another advantage claimed by builders of this type of refrigerator is that on account of its construction, vermin and rats cannot work their way through the walls. In localities, especially in certain sea-coast towns where rats are very common, closely woven chicken-wire is laid during the construction, either on the floor and partly up the side walls to prevent rats and mice from getting into the refrigerator.

What type of refrigerator is best to install, depends entirely upon the individual requirements of a market and what is most suitable to meet the conditions of that locality. It is obvious, however, that from the standpoint of good business, the best refrigerators are not too good for modern, progressive markets, especially when they are judged from the standpoint of insulation, circulation, and workmanship.

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