« October 2007 Table of Contents
Processing & Services: Retail weighing
Increased retail pressures push the need to find the
By Lauren Kramer
October 01, 2007
Because most seafood species are sold by the pound, a scale
is an essential component of all retail seafood environments.
The appliance's accuracy and ability to multi-task can save
retailers time and money. A malfunctioning scale or product
that's weighed improperly by an employee means you could be
charging too much - or not enough - for your retail seafood
There are many scale options on the market these days, some
more high-tech than others. But before you start shopping, it
is imperative to consider a few questions.
What level of accuracy do you require when weighing seafood?
This will determine the scale resolution, or the smallest
weight a scale can display. What is the greatest weight you
will need to place on the scale at any one time? The answer to
this question will determine the scale capacity you need. How
wet is your store? It makes sense to purchase a scale that can
withstand a wet environment if this applies to yours, as some
will rust and stop working when exposed to water. Finally,
choose a scale that is certified Legal For Trade, a requirement
for scales almost everywhere.
The organization that certifies scales Legal For Trade is
the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which aims
to promote uniformity in U.S. weights-and-measures laws,
regulations and standards to achieve equity between buyers and
sellers in the marketplace.
To be certified Legal For Trade, a scale manufacturer must
submit its product to the National Type Evaluation Program,
which subjects it to various tests.
"If [the scale] conforms, they issue it a certificate of
conformance," explains Stein Carlsen, product manager at
A&D Weighing in San Jose, Calif.
"If you want to design a scale for Legal For Trade status,
you have to go through this program. The scale must be
compliant with NIST handbook 44 requirements. If it's not,
you're not allowed to use it in a commercial application, and
the consequences of non-compliance are typically fines to the
retailer in the range of $500 to $1,000."
At Cataumet Fish in Cataumet, Mass., owner Peter Fisher's
biggest challenge was his staff's ability to accurately gauge
seafood weight to order.
"We cut our seafood according to our customers' requests,
and it's a very difficult thing to do," he confesses. One
customer, Sam Raymond, noticed Fisher's summer college staff
struggle to accurately estimate the weight of seafood and
determined there must be a better way to do it.
"It festered in his mind for years until he came up with
Precision Cut," says Fisher. Raymond created a device that
attaches to a scale, putting a static platform in line with the
scale's weighing platform. "There is a narrow gap between the
two platforms, and you take the cut of seafood and slide it
across the scale until you have the exact amount you want,"
explains Anker Berg-Sonne, VP at Precision Cut. "Our device
lets the person making the cut understand exactly where to cut
it, according to price or weight."
The Stowe, Mass., company is working hard to ensure the
device will work with all scales, and last month released a new
model that is more versatile than its predecessor. Made from
stainless steel, the attachment has no moving parts and sells
"Most of the technology involved in our device is in
ensuring that it's a solid attachment to the scale, so it can't
move," says Berg-Sonne.
The majority of buyers have been small seafood retailers who
process their own fish like Cataumet Fish, which has
encountered sim ilar problems when cutting fillets into
particular sizes. Fisher, for one, says Precision Cut is well
worth the price.
"It's a tool to train new employees how to cut fish and give
them an idea what the weight of a particular piece of fish
looks like," he says. "If you are trying to be precise as far
as the weight of the fish is concerned, this is a great device,
and it pays for itself in terms of the waste in the stakes. I'd
recommend it to any retail or wholesale establishment that cuts
A&D Weighing has three scales appropriate for seafood
retailers, depending on their particular needs. The SF/SG
series, which retails for between $455 and $495, is the
company's only retail price-computing scale. That means it will
calculate and display the price of whatever is being weighed,
based on its price per pound, with a 66-pound capacity.
Another model, the HLWP, has a 6.6-pound capacity, retails
for $379 and is better suited for weighing smaller items such
as shrimp and scallops. "This one is designed for use in wet
environments and is the only submersible portion-control scale
on the market," says Stein Carlsen, A&D company
spokesperson. "Think about it - you have fish oils, skin, sauce
and smelly fish parts on your scale, so you might want to clean
it! With this digital scale, you can just dunk it in the
The company's third retail model, SKWP, is designed for
weighing heavier portions up to 44 pounds, such as crabs and
fillets. "It can be washed down, but not submerged," says
Carlsen, adding that it retails for $389.
At Yamato Corp. in Colorado Springs, Colo., the company's
PPC-200W scale is certified Legal For Trade and has full
"It's ideal for small retail environments as well as the
packaging and processing areas," says Prague Mehta, national
sales manager. "What's nice is that the footprint of the scale
is pretty small - just a 9-inch by 9-inch stainless-steel
platform with an LDC display. It's small, but it packs a lot of
punch for what it can do."
The PPC-200W, which costs $495, can weigh up to 40 pounds of
seafood and is fully sealed, portable and battery operated. "It
also has RS232 capability, where you can install a card and
connect it to a printer or label printer," says Mehta. "But the
simplicity of this scale has appeal. Right out of the box, you
put in the batteries and you're good to go. It doesn't have any
complex PLUs that you have to deal with."
Based in North Kingstown, R.I., MTI Weigh Systems offers two
retail scale models, both of which can weigh up to 60 pounds:
The CAS S2000 and the S2000 Junior, of which the latter was
just released this year. "These are price computing scales
where you weigh an item and add memory, so the scale will
recall the cost of a particular item," says Sheryl Benn, sales
Both models come with a wet cover and a fish platter, but
while the S2000 has an AC adaptor and costs $550, the junior
model, which retails for $395, comes with a rechargeable
"The advantage of the S2000Jr is that it is portable,
allowing a seafood retailer to sell their products on the docks
or at a seafood festival," Benn explains. "The S2000Jr is an
upgraded version of the S2000, based on customers' needs and
changes in the economy."
John Cooley, owner of Tuckerton Bait and Tackle in
Tuckerton, N.J., has been using the S2000 for the past two
years. "It's a great electrical scale, I really like it," he
says. "But I also need a hanging scale, because some of the
fish I need to weigh are too heavy for the S2000."
In a field facing increased competition, rising wholesale
seafood prices and shrinking profit margins, seafood retailers
both big and small need to research and find the right scale
for their operation.
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British