For five and a half years Australian company MEQ Solutions toiled to find a better system for measuring eating quality and yield in sheep and beef carcases.
Traditional tools using ultrasound systems were not considered sufficiently accurate to provide the necessary information that MEQ Solutions chief executive and co-founder Remo Carbone was seeking.
The first challenge was to convince customers that this new age of carcase data was more accurate and reliable than earlier versions.
By refining the algorithms used by existing technology, his team of 12 engineers was able to develop an accurate data-driven process to provide information on carcase quality and nutritional value.
The New South Wales company, which was displaying its wares at the Rabobank Farm2Fork seminar in Sydney last week, has products in use in Australia, the United States and New Zealand.
Development started by looking at the technology used in human biology that could be adapted for use in the meat industry to objectively measure yields and meat quality and ultimately add value.
Carbone said research shows that a small increase in intramuscular fat can lead to a significant improvement in the eating experience.
He said the five and a half years of research has paid dividends with the release of three products to measure various elements in both live animals and carcases.
For farmers it has developed a live animal grading and valuation tool.
The machine – resembling a plate attached to a monitor – is lowered onto the back of a restrained cattle beast.
In five seconds the imaging provides producers with real-time information on the animal’s yield and marbling and provides a predictive value.
Carbone said this not only tells farmers about whether the animal has reached optimum targets but also if feed conversion is adding mass and therefore value to the optimum cuts.
Ultimately the data contributes to information on breeding and genetics.
For processors, MEQ has developed a hot carcase probe for quality grading of marbling, tenderness and intramuscular fat in sheep and cattle.
Carbone said early grading of carcases allows processors more time and opportunity to optimise what to do with carcases and cuts.
The probe is easy to operate – learners can become proficient in a few hours – and 14 to 15 carcases can be measured a minute.
The company’s third product is a camera that provides yield and eating-quality measures on cold carcases.
The camera measures rib eye area, marbling and the percentage of intramuscular fat, and can be used by itself or as a complement to the probe.