Silver Fern Farms – Hawera, New Zealand

“The Anago KST Sharpness Tester has been a Godsend. As a training tool it has so many positives”. 

Paddy Luke, Knife Tutor


Silver Fern Farms produce top-end beef cuts for the export market. With an emphasis on freshness, their highly efficient operation completes the full process, from kill to packaged product, in just 65 minutes. Processing around 1000 cattle per day, the facility is a 24 hour operation that employs 500 staff.


After more than 40 years’ working with knives, Paddy Luke was concerned that being a good knife hand often had more to do with physical strength than training. “It wasn’t easy to train somebody effectively” he says. “You’d be sent to train with a guy with arms the size of your legs, and wonder why you couldn’t get the same result he did” he continues. Using the KST Knife Sharpness Tester as a training tool, Silver Fern Farms have been able to improve the sharpening technique of their teams to a level where they’re getting consistently high results across the board. “We now have female knifehands in our team achieving a knife edge that’s very close to the top men” Paddy reports.


Paddy has been working with the Anago KST Knife Sharpness Tester for a number of years, initially sharing one machine with tutors from eight different plants. While he was always impressed, the most significant improvements have been achieved since purchasing a dedicated unit for the Hawera facility around two years ago. “It’s enabled us to have the required level of consistency” says Paddy. “Previously we were making gains, but we weren’t able to provide ongoing feedback”.

The Knife Sharpness Tester is mainly used as a training tool for new staff. By providing an unbiased and replicable measure of sharpness, it facilitates improved steeling skills and helps the staff understand the process required to maintain their knives in optimal condition. “It has been a huge advantage to have factual data to work with” says Paddy. “Good sharpening was previously a ”˜touch and feel’ thing, it came down to experience and was very difficult to train. Now we can advise new staff exactly what level they’re achieving at any time”.

However it’s not just the new hires who appreciate having access to the KST Knife Sharpness Tester. It’s a common occurrence for long-standing team members to bring their knives for testing. “They want to check how they’re going from time to time” says Paddy.  “It becomes a personal challenge.  If they’ve logged an 8.8 previously, they’re aiming for a 9.0 the next time”.

Paddy recently ran a knife sharpening competition for staff and was thrilled with both the enthusiasm it generated, and the results.  Each team member had the opportunity to sharpen and submit two knives, which were then analysed using the Anago KST Knife Sharpness Tester.


With a total of 96 knives tested, Paddy is pleased to report that a number of women and relatively new hires outperformed the more experienced and stronger men. “Training with the Anago KST Knife Sharpness Analyser has completely levelled the playing field” says Paddy. “It is now possible for almost anybody, regardless of experience or strength, to become a competent knife hand in a relatively short period of time”. 


Whilst it’s difficult to track, it’s generally accepted that there is a close correlation between knife sharpness and a high quality final output. As the international market becomes increasingly competitive, producing cuts with a high level of consistency and precision becomes extremely important. Paddy believes that use of high performing knives plays a direct role in achieving this.  “If you have an experienced knife hand with a sharp knife, you get the perfect cut” he comments.  

He is also of the opinion that improved knife sharpness plays a direct role in reducing repetitive stress based injuries such as RSI and OOS, providing health benefits for staff and productivity gains for the facility as a whole.

“The Anago KST Knife Sharpness Tester makes us better knife handlers” he enthuses.