THE next super smart tool in beef’s objective carcase management basket could be a nifty little device with a keen eye for colour which will work hand-in-glove with a first-of-its-kind app.
Meat research scientist Dr Benjamin Holman is working on a package he’s calling iMeat which aims to replace the subjective colour-chip grading of meat conducted manually by trained professionals in processing plants.
His project utilises a tiny ‘colour meter’, that can scan a carcase to get a precise read on its colour, and an algorithm that will empower a smart device app to determine when meat is dark.
Dark cutting, which is linked with the mobilisation of muscle glycogen, is unfavourable to beef eaters and often associated with consumer rejection.
Dr Holman, who works for NSW Department of Primary Industries in Cowra at the Centre for Red Meat and Sheep Development, received a grant from the 2017 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture to further his work.
“One of the big issues facing the beef industry at the moment is dark cutting,” he said.
In fact, industry estimates put the costs at more than $36 million a year.
“Even if you apply that down to a producer selling just a couple of hundred head, it is hurting the little man’s back pocket as much as any in the supply chain,” Dr Holman said.
“At the moment, dark cutting is characterised by a subjective test run by highly trained people.
“It costs the industry money to train them and maintain them in the workforce - could we find a more cost-effective and scientific way to do this?”
Dr Holman and his supervisor, respected meat scientist Dr David Hopkins, are hoping to tap into technology used in the renovation industry known as a Nix colour meter which allows people to scan a wall colour they like and get its metric makeup in order to replicate.
“We are now in the process of trying to balance the numbers it provides to grades used in assessing dark cutting in abattoirs,” Dr Holman said.
“What we are generating is information that will feed into an algorithm. That will allow an app to function.”
Assuming everything goes to course, an assessor will have a smart device strapped to his or her arm when working in a plant. When they apply the nix to meat, and the bounceback of light is measured objectively, that data will feed into the app.
It all happens ‘quicker than a blink’, said Dr Holman.
“We are also, at the moment, working on determining exactly what the accuracy will be,” he said.
“The first step is making sure it is user-friendly and repeatable.
“But ultimately, the hope is it will be yet another objective carcase measurement tool, which is all about making sure everyone along the supply chain gets a fairer slice of the pie.”