The Scottish government and Quality Meat Scotland are co-funding a £1 million Integrated Measurement of Eating Quality project, which is using cutting-edge automated technology to determine carcass pH and temperature using surface-based ultrasound probes located at different positions on the carcass to help determine the quality of meat.
The three-year project, being delivered by a consortium of partners and due for completion in the spring of 2013, also uses automatic means of measuring meat color, carcass fat and eating and nutritional qualities. These measures are being integrated with a video image analysis system, resulting in a new process for use on the line in abattoirs. In the future, say researchers, this could lead to the development of a system which is faster, less labor-intensive, less expensive and delivers new information.
The initial focus of the project is on beef, with the aim to extend the technology to lamb and pig meat at a later date. Central to the research is the use of robotic technology similar to that utilized by the high precision motor industry. “A priority since moving the robot onto the processing line has been looking closely at the technical robustness and intelligent autonomy of the system," said Dave Ross, senior research engineer of the sustainable livestock systems group at Scottish Agricultural College. “The automation system and sensors are now being used successfully in a real-time environment to assess the overall performance of the system in measuring meat and carcass quality-related parameters. The project is moving into a validation trial phase through the remainder of 2012 and early 2013."