This week we have an old supervisor of Marks, Graham Gardener as our guest. Graham has been involved in a huge multi species project (ALMTECH) focusing on measuring lean meat yield and eating quality for the past 7 years. You can find out more about it here:
Mark and Graham start off with the work ALMTECH have been doing on live animal measurements in terms of lean meat yield.
"In beef, the most advanced one we started with was a 3D imaging system. The cameras would acquire images and predict things like weight, eye muscle area and fat depth. We also had a muscle scoring system. Also we could predict the whole carcass composition in terms of bone muscle and fat ratio."
Another piece of new technology Graham covers is a handheld microwave device where you can predict the fat depth in cattle. The tech has been developed from a technology applied to humans to do brain scanning, so it's very safe for humans.
Mark and Graham then go onto DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry).
"We've done preliminary work and it looks quite good and far more accurate than any of those other systems I've just described" But the scale and cost of the machine isn't always ideal. "About half of all lambs slaughtered in Australia are measured on the DEXA scale. But, not everyone wants a DEXA system so we've been working on the handheld devices." Says Graham.
Some of these devices are being developed to be used in both live and carcass measurements. "The same microwave device, we're having a crack at that in the abattoir as well. The accuracy is promising and it might be able to meet accreditation standards." Graham explains.
When it comes to scoring sheep, it isn't as easy as beef what with the wool distorting imaging. "Simple surface imaging cameras don't work." says Graham. "The microwave does a pretty good job at predicting fat depth, and we've had a crack at correlating it with a medical DEXA scans of live animals."
"So, lean meat yield was one half of the story, eating quality was the other half." says Graham. "There are things that measure eating quality in lamb but we cant measure them at chain speed yet."
Mark asks about any other tools in the belt for selecting for eating quality.
"There are tools that we can use for those other traits like shear force, and thats genetics." Says Graham. "It's only the really switched on breeders that are bothering to optimise their eating quality traits within their selection indices."
Mark finally delves into the cellular level of meat quality which is an absolutely fascinating conversation for those sheep nerds out there.
Have a look at the Scott Automation processing video Mark and Graham mention here:
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