A RECENT study of 65 meat processors across the nation conducted by NSW Department of Primary Industries examined what carcase and meat quality traits they considered essential to objectively measure online.
Objective online measurement technologies under development have the potential to capture carcase yield or meat quality traits (or both) at production speed on the kill floor or in the chiller.
Meat colour and tenderness were identified as the two most important traits for objective measurement in beef, while in sheep carcases, tenderness, pH, age, meat colour, total tissue depth (at the 12th rib 110mm from the midline) and saleable meat yield percentage were considered the most important traits.
Eighty percent of processors surveyed agreed that online objective grading systems had a role in the Australian meat processing sector now, and 88pc saw such systems as having a role in the future.
Accuracy and consistency were two factors that processors indicated were vital from objective carcase technology to deliver consistent quality to their customers.
Barriers to adoption
Barriers to adoption of objective assessment technology were also explored. Factors such as cost, space, ease of use and access to maintenance and support were raised by processors.
Another specific barrier noted was the fact that of the five online measurement technologies available at the time the survey was conducted, three were manufactured by the same company and the business model adopted for their implementation (outlay cost plus annual fee plus per animal fee) was not cost effective.
When asked how they would utilise the data collected from objective grading technology, 77pc of processors said they would utilise data it to make real time decisions on market suitability, and 52pc indicated they would market their products differently, provide greater feedback to suppliers and derive payment systems.
“With over half of the processors indicating the value they see in online objective measurement technologies, there needs to be links made for the whole industry to benefit,” a report on the survey issued by Agriculture Victoria’s BetterBeef program said. BetterBeef is a coordinated producer and service provider network.
“The industry’s Livestock Data Link online platform will help to facilitate improved information sharing through the supply chain and therefore assist in this process,” it said.
The adoption of online measurement technologies for measuring carcase and meat quality traits among Australian meat processors had so far been slow, BetterBeef found. However, there has been a lot of research into the use of objective carcase management over the past few decades, across the world, to predict both beef and sheep carcase quality and yield characteristics.
“The reason for the development of this technology has been threefold; to satisfy consumer demands for quality, provide accurate data to producers on carcase feedback and reduce processor labour requirements,” it said.
Although the area of processor implementation of online measurement technologies has benefits to the whole industry, the challenge would be to deliver value equally along the supply chain.
“There also needs to be longevity in the technology created due to lag time between development and adoption and clear alignment with the national grading system programs such as MSA,” it said.
However increased adoption of online measurement technologies has the potential to achieve benefits to the whole of industry and needs continued support, coupled with new approaches to enhance adoption.
Wagyu industry moves with Japanese digital grading camera
Meanwhile, the Australian Wagyu Association has launched an expressions of interest process for interested parties to purchase the first Meat Image Japan MIJ-30 digital objective carcase cameras for commercial grading use.
“Objective carcase measurement for Wagyu has been acknowledged as a required step forward to give more precise data, particularly in relation to intramuscular fat content and fineness and ribeye area,” the association told members.
The camera technology developed by Meat Image Japan is ideally suited to Wagyu carcase measurement and the AWA has secured a partnership to be the exclusive reseller for the camera in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The association’s aim is to place ten cameras in the industry by the end of the year.
Expressions of Interest in the camera close on 21 September.