THE MEAT processing sector’s research and development arm has come to the party with funds for the ambitious plan to roll out objective carcase yield measurement technology in abattoirs across the country.
The Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) will make processor levy funds available for individual plants to ‘opt-in’ on DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) unit installations.
DEXA technology measures meat, fat and bone in a carcase scientifically, bypassing controversial human subjectivity, and the $150 million plan to have units installed across the industry was initially proposed by the producer-owned Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
After lengthy consideration and due diligence, which at times created controversy, AMPC’s agreement to be a part of the rollout is a big step forward for the initiative, signalling two service providers are now on board.
In agreeing, the AMPC board did, however, stipulate the corresponding aggregated data that would be collected and stored by MLA be for research purposes only.
AMPC chief executive officer Peter Rizzo said that proviso in no way affected the data being used by individual plants in transactions with producers.
“The key word is aggregated. The proviso is about allaying fears that data could be grabbed by a third party looking to start a commercial activity at the expense of the owners of the data,” he explained.
AMPC wants the data available for research and believes MLA’s integrity and information systems business unit is the right custodian, he said.
The next step for the DEXA rollout will now be the overseeing of an engineering report to determine, on a plant-per-plant basis, just how much DEXA implementation will cost.
This will be carried out by the newly-formed red meat industry objective management taskforce and is expected to take around three months.
The exact number of plants wanting to ‘opt in’, and as such the corresponding funding required, was still very fluid, according to AMPC.
“The costing will be different for every plant - this report will allow us to crystalise who wants it and when they want it,” Mr Rizzo said.
From there, the rollout of the DEXA units is expected to take around three years.
In a statement, the AMPC board said it recognised the project was one of “unprecedented scope in the wider Australian agricultural research and development history.”
AMPC was “materially satisfied that there are potentially significant benefits available to industry in the form of research coming from objective carcase measurement data feedback and potential benefits in production efficiencies in members processing plants,” the statement said.
The board also recognised the wider industry calls in support of these beneficial outcomes.
Cattle Council of Australia director David Hill said AMPC’s support was widely welcomed.
DEXA was seen as a way of driving efficiencies in the production sector, he said.
“The ability to lift the current accuracies on yield well above the 20 per cent we now have is no small thing,” he said.
“If I have an animal too fat and not yielding well, it’s wasted resource on my part but it’s also a cost to the whole supply chain.
“This technology has the potential to be able to tell us which animals we no longer want to produce and which ones we want more of.
“Ultimately we want to turn off a product worth more to our industry.”
He said it had to be acknowledged the processing sector had already invested a significant amount into DEXA, with the view to moving towards automation.
“The mood in the room is now very positive,” he said.
“I think all are of the realisation that if we are to keep this industry profitable into the future we need to work together more constructively.”