AI to identify eating quality of beef, lamb

Otago Daily Times file photo
Otago Daily Times file photo
Red meat co-operative Alliance Group is rolling out artificial intelligence technology at its plants to identify eating quality in beef and lamb.

Chief executive Willie Wiese said Alliance had been trialling the technology at two of its plants, Pukeuri in Oamaru and Smithfield in Timaru, for the past nine months.

The company was partnering with Australian ag-tech solutions provider MEQ to deploy lamb and beef probes powered by sophisticated machine learning and artificial intelligence to measure the intramuscular fat levels in lamb and marbling percentages in beef.

The MEQ probes used the only technology of its kind that had been industry-accredited by key Australian red meat body Aus-Meat, Mr Wiese said.

Across Alliance’s plant network, the technology would provide a real-time view of the eating quality of the meat produced.

Intramuscular fat and ageing were believed to be the two largest contributors to the sensory experience when eating quality meat.

The technology used a combination of spectral analysis and artificial intelligence to accurately measure intramuscular fat in a carcass at the beginning of processing to capture a fingerprint within a loin muscle.

"This will provide the co-operative with objective measurable data to give farmers visibility about the quality of the meat they are supplying," Mr Wiese said.

"Farmers will then be able to make informed decisions about breeding programmes and feed which leads to more sustainable livestock management."

Farmers in the co-operative were "hungry" for detailed information about the quality of their animals because ultimately higher intramuscular fat and marbling readings translated to greater returns for them and the co-operative.

In pasture-based livestock production systems, intramuscular fat had a strong correlation with polyunsaturated fats, including omega fatty acids. High IMF levels represented healthy fats, which were good for nutrition, he said.

"Working with MEQ arms us with the best data very early in our processes. The benefits of this insight will flow down throughout the entire supply chain, and ultimately to the end consumer.

"It will enable us to build up and scale our premium programmes, which is a growing part of our business, and allow us to further differentiate our product offering to target consumers."

The probe technology did not require carcasses to be chilled in order to measure intramuscular fat or marbling.


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