CENTRAL Queensland cattle producer David Hill says it’s all about transparency and ultimately improving the profitability and sustainability of the entire beef industry. And the sooner the red meat industry moves to an objective measurement system for carcases the better.
Mr Hill, who is based at Clarkwood at Clarke Creek near Marlborough and is the northern independent representative on the peak producer body Cattle Council of Australia, said the adoption of DEXA in Australian meatworks was shaping up as the red meat industry’s next big step forward.
He said an objective measurement system would shift the industry from its current price-averaging system to a fairer and more equitable value based pricing system.
In essence, producers would be paid on the actual amount of saleable meat on each carcase, doing away with the currently unreliable subjective assessment system.
However, to maximise the potential of an objective system all of the data and information gathered along the whole-of-supply chain had to be made available to all relevant parties.
That would enable each player in the industry to make decisions about genetic and management strategies to best meet market requirements.
Then the real value drivers of the beef industry - product integrity and quality – would be unlocked, Mr Hill told an MLA organised DEXA workshop in Brisbane on Monday.
“The Australian red meat industry has the systems and policies that are the envy of our competitors around the world in all areas except for how we determine yield,” Mr Hill said.
“We currently use a single measure of P8 fat as a predictor.
“P8 is notoriously unreliable and is at best 35-40 per cent accurate as an indicator of yield. In comparison DEXA is 85pc accurate.
“DEXA is the technology that is ready to go today. However, there will be further technologies and improvements in the future.”
DEXA is dual X-ray technology that calculates the amount of meat, fat and bone. It is already used on about 50pc of trim produced in Australian meatworks as a fast and cost effective means of accurately determine the fat content in ground meat.
If adopted, the equipment used in meatworks would measure the side of each carcase.
In the lamb processing industry the technology is already being used to guide robots used to break down carcases.
MLA research, development and innovation general manager Sean Starling said DEXA could be viewed as a bookend, complementing the already extensively adopted MSA meat quality eating system.
“Meat yield, which DEXA measures, and eating quality, which is already well captured by the MSA system, are certainly complementary,” Dr Starling said.
“They should be seen as running in parallel and not be taken as being in competition.
“It is a means of having the knowledge to make the decisions which increases the meat yield of animals and also decreasing the variation between animals.”
AgForce Cattle president Bim Struss said it was important for industry to carefully consider the funding of DEXA. “We should not get carried away and commit effectively 20 per cent of our levies unless this is what the industry needs,” Mr Struss said. “There will be producers who would be disadvantaged by DEXA compared to the current averaging system. We need to make sure we are approach all technology from an evidence based and outcome focused perspective.”
Industry is currently in the process of being consulted on its willingness to make a one-off $151 million investment to make DEXA technology available to Australia’s 89 Aus-Meat accredited processing facilities.