Latest camera tech to put lamb-eating quality in focus
By the click of a camera, or the use of infra-red technology, consumers would flock to a new revolutionary standard of eating quality for Australian lamb.
Murdoch University Professor David Pethick said there was significant scope to broaden the Meat Standards Australia sheepmeat program with a carcase- grading program that measures the balance of lean-meat yield and intramuscular fat.
“The current MSA grading metrics for lamb is a minimum 18kg hot carcase weight and a fat score of two and above,” he said.
“An analysis of Lambplan genetics trends data from 2000 to 2017 showed that as lean-meat yield increased, intramuscular fat and consumer eating-quality scores had decreased.
Dr Pethick said that analogy was a clear sign a carcase-grading program was needed.
“Lean-meat yield is antagonistic to eating quality, but if we can measure them both, we can manage them and balance them,” he said.
Dr Pethick, who was part of the initial MSA R&D Pathways team, said a grading system would enable lamb and sheepmeat to be graded and marketed as three, four or five-star lamb.
“At the moment, all lamb is lamb, there’s no differentiation,” he said. “Having a grading system would provide new branding and marketing opportunities.”
Dr Pethick said the technology for measuring lean-meat yield was progressing rapidly.
“However, it is difficult to measure intramuscular fat at line speed in an abattoir,” he said.
“Manually grading by a human is not economically viable, so our research is focusing on getting a measure of IMF at line speed.”
Dr Pethick said researchers were confident that camera technology, which would be trialled in abattoirs next year, would work.
“Other options still in progress include infra-red technology, which will be tested in Australia later this year,” he said.
With his focus on developing a grading system, Dr Pethick also believes there is scope for a new formal yearling category for sheepmeat.
“It could be a category of people who want to sell a non-lamb product, but that would be radical because lamb has such a strong name,” he said.
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