Food Engineering

Keep the rust out

January 1, 2007


Marathon bearings replace OEM units that are prone to rust and corrosion. Source: MRC Bearing Services.


Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the world’s leading chicken producer, can’t afford production downtime for unscheduled maintenance. This is especially true of its cook plant in Farmerville, LA, which had been experiencing premature rusting problems with OEM bearings in many of its production machines. It didn’t make sense to replace the rusting bearings with more of the same, which must endure exposure to aggressive washdown chemicals, heavy loads and high temperatures in some equipment.

To put an end to frequent machine stoppages, the plant began a bearing retrofit program. Original standard and stylus cast-iron bearings have been replaced as needed with Marathon extreme-duty stainless steel mounted bearing units manufactured by MRC Bearing Services.

“The MRC bearings can handle the washdowns, weights and speeds involved in our applications,” says Mark Higdon, maintenance manager at Farmerville. “They’re high performance and sturdy.” Most bearing applications at the plant support conveyors transporting prepared foods such as buffalo wings and chicken tenders into ovens for the process of cooking to brown.

The cook plant runs four production lines, and the daily high-pressure washdowns take their toll on OEM bearings. Composite bearings, which offer corrosion resistance, were tried as a potential solution. “But the heat from our ovens caused cracks and distortion in the composite bearing housings,” Higdon recalls. “We learned quickly that durability of the bearings was as much an issue as corrosion resistance in our application.” Higdon confirms the bearings have proven a good fit for several reasons, including their construction, design, sealing arrangement and installation procedure.

Marathon XD AISI 300 cast stainless steel housings were designed specifically for poultry processing applications. The bases are cast flat with no recesses, and the exposed surfaces of the housings have no unnecessary crevices or pockets. Smooth cast surfaces minimize trapped material to allow for more thorough cleaning. A stainless steel sealing arrangement keeps out water and provides longer bearing service life and performance. The arrangement consists of a double-lip, AISI 304 stainless steel insert seal, an AISI 304 stainless steel flinger and a rubber-backed seal gasket.

From Higdon’s perspective, the bearing units substantially reduce his staff’s time, effort, and costs. Unlike units in the original equipment, the new bearings come prelubricated-for-life. Without a need to regrease the bearings, there is no chance for over- or under-lubricating and no chance for related bearing failures.

The production lines use a wide range of bore sizes (including 3/4 in., 1 in., 1-1/4 in. and 1-7/16 in. as well as 20 mm, 25 mm and 30 mm) and several housing styles (pillow block and two- and four-bolt flange). All sizes and styles have proved timely and cost-effective to install.  “We simply bolt them up to the existing bolt pattern, and they become drop-in replacements,” says Higdon. “They serve our retrofit program especially well with their easy installation and improved function.”

The Farmerville facility originated as a test site for new products and has since become one of the dozens of key production and processing plants operated by Pilgrim’s Pride throughout the US, Mexico and Puerto Rico. A similar successful retrofit program specifying Marathon bearings was implemented at another Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Texas.u

For more information:

Jay S. Carlson, MRC Bearing Services;

716-661-2727;  jay.s.carlson@skf.com