Technology aimed at identifying premium quality marbled beef and lamb at the beginning of carcase processing is being trialled by the Alliance Group.
The company has been using fluorescence spectroscopy technology at its Smithfield (Timaru) and Pukeuri (Oamaru) plants as part of a 12-month project. The technology, thought to be a first for a New Zealand red meat company, aims to consistently identify premium quality marbled beef and lamb with high intramuscular fat (IMF).
Fluorescence spectroscopy technology uses light to measure IMF in a carcase at the start of processing to capture a “fingerprint” of the IMF in a loin muscle.
Alliance chief executive Willie Wiese said the two largest contributors to the sensory experience when eating quality meat are IMF and ageing, with higher levels of IMF believed to be the greatest contributor.
“One of the challenges we have as a food company is to create the highest quality taste experience 100% of the time,” he said.
“We have been working on this project for the last 12 months. This technology is exciting because we can immediately identify all premium quality carcasses early on without disrupting production and optimise the opportunity for higher returns in our global markets.
“It will enable us to build up and scale our premium programmes, which is a growing part of our business.”
Wiese said another benefit is the ability to use the data to provide a detailed breakdown of a farmer’s mob performance over the entire season.
Alliance sales and marketing general manager Shane Kingston said taste and texture are the main drivers of a consumer’s eating experience.
“IMF has a strong correlation with polyunsaturated fat including Omega fatty acids. High IMF levels represent the healthy fats, which are good for nutrition but also the health of the animal. It is therefore a key attribute that needs to be measured by livestock unit whilst other contributors can be periodically measured.
“The technology can help drive accuracy and efficiency across our premium lamb and beef brands, ensuring consumers’ taste experience is consistently high.”
Alliance Group partnered with High Health Alliance (its joint venture with Headwaters) in conjunction with the Ministry for Primary Industries to deliver the technology.