IF you think a machine that can objectively measure lean meat yield in a beef carcase is advanced, strap in - there is far more to come.
Within five years, the prediction is we’ll have apps on our phones capable of being waved over produce to give a freshness reading.
Eventually robots in our kitchens may be whipping up spag bol to the exact specifications of the family’s favourite recipe.
These are just a couple of the concepts in the sights of Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) research, development and innovation team.
Sean Starling, who is responsible for managing MLA’s $170 million annual research and development investment across the Australian red meat industry value chain, provided a glimpse of what might be in the pipeline in terms of futuristic beef industry technology at the recent Australian Lot Feeders Association conference.
Particularly in the area of objective measurements for all parts of the supply chain, his team is drawing on existing technology in other fields like medicine, health, aviation and the equine industry to give our beef, goat and lamb producers a big leg up.
While Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) has been the talk of the town in beef this year, it is just one objective measurement under the spotlight.
“We have bets happening everywhere to try to develop better measurements than what exists today for all parts of the supply chain,” Mr Starling said.
From reproduction and animal health and welfare in the production sector to hide, pelt and offal grading in processing right through to shelf life and food safety and human nutrition in the consumer space, numerous cutting-edge measure platforms are emerging.
Think CT (computed tomography) in both live animals and carcases, eating quality scanners and three dimensional cameras.
Like DEXA, many technologies that are used in other fields have potential for adaptation to red meat.
“We didn’t invent DEXA, it has been in medicine since the 1980s and is also used in the gym industry,” Mr Starling said.
MLA is now investigating adapting scanners to live animals.
“On a feedlot induction you might have animals walking past a scanner,” Mr Starling explained.
“In theory, you could use the industry’s carcase cuts calculator and it would tell you that if you were to slaughter today, here’s what the rump or loin might be in kilograms.”
Evaluations are also underway into how equine solutions might be applied to beef.
“Live animal scans that accommodate animal movement enables us to see things we haven’t been able to before,” he said.
Drawing on the aviation business and its luggage scanning, red meat might one day be able to offer a ‘walk through’ option.
Some of the technologies will drive automation, some won’t, Mr Starling said.
“New business models will evolve. I can see a day where people will offer services such as farmgate drive-ups to scan what’s in your paddock so you know on the spot whether to turn it off or feed it something different,” he said.
“The more accurately you can measure something, the better the decision you can make.”
New technology had to deliver but it also had to come at the right price point, Mr Starling said.
“We also need to look at the value proposition of any measures we are investigating,” he said.