If you process your own wild game, quality equipment is a must-have! One of the first pieces we bought for our home processing setup was a LEM #8 grinder. For 12 years, that grinder was put through the wringer, grinding at least a couple of thousands of pounds of deer, elk, pork, moose, and buffalo over the years. It was a workhorse. And as of today, it's still going strong.
But we decided that a bigger grinder was becoming necessary. We hadn't taken the plunge to purchase a larger size, and as luck would have it, I won a LEM #22 Big Bite grinder from an Instagram contest! It couldn't have worked out more perfectly since this was the size we were considering but didn't want to spend the money yet.
For the record, I have no affiliation with LEM and this is an honest product review based on my use of the #22 grinder. Although I received the grinder for free, it was a contest and not provided by LEM in exchange for reviews, content, social media, etc.
Product: LEM #22 Big Bite Meat Grinder, 1HP
Top Features (from the LEM website):
Rounded meat pan with hand-guard for ease of use
Storage drawer directly below the grinder head
Rifled head for an easier second grind and stuffing without the stomper
Quieter gears and upgraded performance
Offset, larger diameter throat
5-Year warranty and lifetime customer support
When looking for a new grinder, the most important factors were the speed of grinding and the ease of re-grinding meat for burgers, sausage, etc. I wasn't concerned with the noise level since I would not expect this to be quiet. Price was of course a factor, but I knew a good grinder would be expensive.
The LEM #22 assembles and disassembles just like the #8, so I already knew how everything worked. It is quite easy to assemble and they have a very detailed video on the LEM website with complete instructions showing exactly how to unbox, put everything together and disassemble for storage.
The #22 is substantially bigger/taller than the #8 so for use on a standard kitchen counter, it can be pretty tall to load the meat into the tray and stand there pushing it through. I'm 5'8", so it's not much of an issue, but for shorter people, a stool might be necessary. The height is helpful if you use the General Duty or Heavy Duty LEM Meat Lugs. These are taller and don't fit under the #8 grinding head, so I have to either put that grinder on a thick cutting board to make it taller or grind into a different container and transfer it. With the #22, the Lug fits under the grinding head so I can grind right into that without issue.
The grinding hole is 3", which is helpful because you don't have to cut such small pieces of meat to fit through it. While it seems insignificant, it can actually save a lot of time before you start grinding, especially if you are grinding tons of meat!
The hand-guard is kind of awkward and in the way when sliding meat into the grinding hole. But considering your fingers and hand could fit inside the hole, it would be a safety hazard not to have the guard.
Although it's easy to use, this grinder is HEAVY! The specs list it as 49.6 pounds. I'm used to lifting and hauling heavy stuff so it's not much of an issue for me, but for others, it could definitely be a chore.
Like a hot knife through butter! That's the best description I can use. Even with larger pieces of meat, it goes through the hole in the tray and into the grinding head without force. The auger grabs it and pushes it through quickly. I have yet to have an instance where this grinder slowed or seemed like it was struggling or bogged down.
This grinder is fast! While I've not personally timed it, the grinding is done in a fraction of time compared to the #8. According to the LEM website, it grinds 13 pounds per minute. So for 60 pounds of elk meat, that's less than 5 minutes. It honestly takes longer to go to my basement, get the grinder, put it together, and put the meat in the tray than it does to actually grind the meat.
The other important factor was how easy it is to re-grind meat. We don't use the grinder for stuffing sausage (we have a separate stuffer) but we do like to regrind our ground meat once we add the fat and seasonings to make sure it's mixed well. With the #8, this was a chore. I'd have to put just a little meat in at a time then always push it through with the meat stomper. With the #22, the ground meat goes through almost as easily as whole meat chunks. If you put too much in the hole, it's necessary to use the meat stomper to push it down, but once it's cleared, you can just keep feeding it through with ease.
Storage Tray - Until writing this review and getting the features list from the LEM website, I had no idea this existed. I never read the instructions or manual with this grinder since it's just a larger version of my #8. I'll be using this to keep the extra plates and blades. It's not big enough for the sausage tubes, but I don't use those anyway.
Stuffer Tubes - The #22 comes with 3 plastic stuffing tubes: 5/8", 1", and 1 3/8". As stated previously, we have a sausage stuffer, so we will not likely be using these. We have used them on our #8 before we had a stuffer, and never had any issues with them. I would expect these to work and perform the same.
Noise Level - As expected, the #22 is loud. There's no stated decibel level on the LEM website, but it's a 1HP motor, so I never expected it to be quiet. If you're listening to the TV or a podcast while grinding, you may want to pause that or you'll have to really turn up the volume!
Price and Purchasing
LEM website = $699.99 + $7 additional shipping costs
Home Depot = $629.99, but the only options were free in-store or curbside pickup; no delivery options were available
Sportsman's Warehouse = $729.99 + free shipping
Cabela's = Does not sell LEM brand
The LEM #22 is a beast. Based on how well the #8 has held up (and is still going), I know the #22 will last forever or longer. It makes grinding our wild game meat so fast and easy. It grinds bigger pieces of meat and grinders faster than I can keep the tray loaded, so it saves us so much time during the grinding process. A few minutes here and there add up to hours over time and with multiple deer and elk each season, that's important.
I would absolutely recommend the #22 to anyone who is serious about game processing or anyone who plans to grind multiple animals each season or throughout the year. It would also be a good investment for a group of friends/family who wants to start a processing setup and share the cost. But for the everyday hunter who tags just a couple of deer each season, the #22 might be a bit much. A smaller size will serve you well and not be as hard on the bank account.
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, pronghorn, and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras, and Brand Ambassador for the BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.