The sheep meat industry’s role in developing the new DEXA meat grading system has been awarded a prestigious Awards for Excellence in Innovation from the Cooperative Research Centres Association.
The award is recognition for the benefits being delivered to the industry by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), which is allowing abattoirs to accurately measure carcase lean meat yield at line speed.
The award was presented in Sydney last night to the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), on behalf of its collaboration with Murdoch University, Scott Automation and Robotics, JBS Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Sheep Producers Australia, Coles, the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, AgBiz Solutions, South Australian Research and Development Institute and the Victorian Department of Economic Development.
Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the technology was changing the structure of the Australian sheep meat industry through a shift to value-based pricing of carcases. Historically, the industry has used a very simple measure of fatness to predict lean meat yield, meaning that lamb was traded as a weight-based commodity, poorly reflecting the value of the saleable meat that consumers demand.
“By combining DEXA with the Sheep CRC’s cuts-based carcase calculator, we can now accurately determine the weight and value of all commercial cuts prior to bone-out,” Prof. Rowe said.
“This has been long sought after by the industry and was considered something of a ‘Holy Grail’. It’s been estimated that this solution could return a gross value of up to $420 million annually to the red meat industry by 2035, based on shared use of DEXA information to predict lean meat yield and robotic carcase processing.”
DEXA systems are now being installed in lamb and beef processing facilities across Australia, with the impact of the innovation expected to continue increasing as the value of accurate information on carcase composition is captured by all sectors of Australia’s red-meat value-chain.
For companies like JBS, the value of DEXA technology is both in measuring lean meat yield and in providing the skeletal imagery required to direct the system’s robotic boning.
For producers, DEXA will deliver more detailed carcase feedback, allowing them to refine stock management and genetic selection decisions to maximise the value from their sheep through greater amounts of saleable meat per carcase and a reduction in overfat carcases. Overfat carcases currently cost farmers in wasted nutrition and abattoirs in labour to trim off excess fat to meet consumer expectations.
Awards for Excellence in Innovation are presented to CRCs at the CRC Association Annual Conference to recognise outstanding CRC research results, knowledge and technologies that have been developed as a result of effective collaboration and which deliver significant impact for Australian industry.
The Sheep CRC also won CRCA Awards for Excellence in 2016 for its development of the RamSelect app, in 2014 for an industry training program to support genetic improvement and in 2012 for its development of DNA technologies for the sheep industry.