Cattle Calls for a Different Breed of Camera Housing

A large-scale beef producer leverages a remote video auditing program at several of its North American processing facilities to ensure food safety techniques. A security integrator is called on to implement special measures to protect the IP-based camera systems from harsh environmental conditions.

In May 2010, the Beef Division of JBS USA Holdings, Inc., a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of JBS S.A., the world’s largest beef producer and global exporter of processed beef, completed a five-month installation of an Arrowsight remote video auditing (RVA) program at eight of its U.S. beef plants. Within the first year of installation, JBS watched the incidence of pathogens, specifically a dangerous strain of E.coli, in its beef-processing plants drop by 50%. The RVA helps JBS employees safely handle cattle and process carcasses after they enter the plant from the stockyard.

“Pathogen contamination comes in on the animal’s hide,” says Dr. John Ruby, vice president of technical services for JBS. “The hide has to be removed perfectly by our employees. And with a camera auditing the process in real-time, you can quickly show people if they need to improve their technique.”

Leveraging the IP-based camera systems beyond security surveillance in the plants stand as a unique application, and opportunity, for installing security contractors. “The RVA system in the plants is not used for compliance issues,” says Ruby. “The simple fact is we’re developing a better food safety system. It’s strictly a plant-driven initiative to reduce pathogens.”

The installations at the JBS facilities also demonstrate how camera systems exposed to extreme industrial environments can require integrators to implement additional design measures to ensure the efficacy of the equipment. Read on to discover what unique challenges were presented in the JBS plants and how a systems integrator partner successfully completed the end user’s requirements.

Using Video to Improve Sanitation

Ruby likens the way shift managers use the RVA program to a coach analyzing a golfer’s swing. “I might think I’m swinging the club like Tiger Woods, but the footage shows otherwise,” he says. “We’re able to bring an employee in and show them images that help them improve their process at the skinning bench.”

JBS uses the RVA camera systems not to penalize people, but rather to train workers to better their performance. The RVA program attracted the attention of JBS after conversations between Arrowsight, a Web-based applications service provider, Ruby and his colleagues, and Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor, best-selling author and consultant to the beef industry on animal welfare. According to Ruby, others in the industry had done work with cameras to monitor animal welfare at plants. Arrowsight and JBS began discussing what the next evolution of auditing the food safety side of beef processing might look like at JBS.

From those conversations, JBS contracted with Norcross, Ga.-based NetPlanner Systems Inc. to install pressurized cameras, thousands of feet of Ethernet cabling, conduit and servers at eight of its beef-processing plants, including Souderton, Pa.; Greeley, Colo.; Green Bay, Wis.; Plainwell, Mich.; Grand Island, Neb.; Cactus, Texas; Tolleson, Ariz.; and, Hyrum, Utah.

The video auditing program focuses on the point at which the cattle enter the plant and are harvested, the hide is removed and the carcass is moved to a containment point, or “hot box,” for chilling. At the busiest of the JBS beef plants, more than 5,000 head of cattle can move through the process in a day. Two shifts of workers process the carcasses, and a third shift sanitizes and performs maintenance in the work areas including the “kill floor.” The sanitation process involves washing down surfaces and tools with USDA-approved cleaners, the use of high-pressure water hoses and water at temperatures up to 180° F.  

Sites Outfitted With All IP SystemsAfter moisture from cleansing water and steam affected unprotected splice points for the dome cameras, Moog Videolarm developed a 10-foot pigtail to put distance between the cleaning agents and the splice. The pigtails are terminated in a NEMA-rated box.

The RVA program was the first time JBS had attempted to install cameras in the working environment between where cattle enter the plant and carcasses are skinned and then further processed. Dust and heat generated by hundreds of cattle, cleaning agents from the sanitation process, and steam and high-pressure water make for one of the most challenging locales for installing and operating cameras.

Prior to implementing the RVA program, JBS audited its kill floors with human eyes. A shift manager and quality assurance employee would regularly stand on the sidelines with a clipboard, and observe workers processing the incoming cattle. But Arrowsight and JBS thought cameras could extend the audit process and help spot mistakes if they arose. 

The project began in January 2010. JBS relied on NetPlanner Systems to put in place the camera and computer infrastructure, supply hardware including Arecont Vision IP cameras, and run cabling and conduits to connect Cisco networking gear to an exacqVision network video recorder (NVR). Cameras report to the NVR from across the network, which Arrowsight relies on to pull video footage for auditing.

As part of a walkthrough of its plants with Arrowsight, the JBS team indicated where it wanted cameras installed. The JBS team was led by technical services along with food safety and animal welfare directors. The main concern of the JBS team was ensuring each camera captured the correct view of the work areas. JBS plant managers, plant engineers and the integrator team from NetPlanner Systems made decisions about how the cabling infrastructure would be installed.

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