Who invented the meat grinder?


Home meat grinder with a hand wheel was the progenitor of today’s professional electric meat grinders. Read more to find out how long meat grinder has been around and learn about its inventor.

Meat grinder was invented in the mid-19th century in Germany (picture: Wikipedia (CC))

Meat grinder was invented by Karl Drais (full name: Karl Friedrich Christian Ludwig Freiherr Drais von Sauerbron), who lived in Germany in 19th century. He was a forest official by education and profession, but also had an outstanding acumen for mechanics and machinery construction.

Portrait of Karl Drais (picture: Wikipedia (CC))

Main components of a meat grinder are a sturdy metal body and an auger (screw conveyor) with cutting blades. The auger, hidden in the body, was powered manually with a rotating handle. The auger pushes meat towards spinning blades mounted at the end of the auger’s axis. Further, the meat is pressed outside through a mincing plate with small holes.

Meat grinder parts (picture: Rainer Zenz (CC))

After taking off the locking ring and the eye screw located on the handle, the grinder can be dismantled for cleaning or blades and plates replacement.

Apart from meat mincing, the grinder, outfitted with a sausage stuffing attachment, can be also used for producing homemade sausages. It serves just as well for other culinary purposes such as grinding fish, poppy seeds, cooked vegetables or dough for pastry baking.

Anyone who used a manual grinder knows how much effort it takes. Therefore, especially in industrial production, the grinders are now powered with an electric motor. The engine speed is controlled with gears. Such machines can even be refrigerated and their capacity is calculated in hundreds of kilograms of meat.

In Karl Drais’s mother tongue, meat grinders are called Fleischwolf (eng. meat wolf), or shorter: wolf (eng. wolf). Larger machines are called Ladenwolf (shop wolf) or Tischwolf (table wolf). In the Polish language, some professional meat-processing terms, like “wilkowanie” or „wilkować” (to grind meat), also come from the German “wolf” (pl. wilk) root.

Drais is also famous for inventing other machines, including a typewriter, a stenograph machine, and a wooden ‘running machine’, the precursor of today’s bicycle, initially called a draisine after its inventor.

Drais’s running machine (picture: Wikipedia (CC))

Even though the inventor died poor and forgotten, today in Karlsruhe, the town of his life and death, there is a dedicated Karl Drais Museum.

29 April 2020 will mark 235th anniversary of Karl Drais’s death. On this occasion, let us remember his merits, also for the meat processing industry.