Computerized tomography (CT scan) produces images of the inside of a body without opening it. This technology, initially developed for medical purposes, is being used by IRTA´s researchers to determine fat, muscle and bone composition in animals or their carcasses. IRTA is a research institute devoted to R+D+I in a variety of areas such as animal production, vegetal production and agri-food economy.
CT scans allow the inspection of the inside of the animal´s body and the ability to obtain thickness, area, and volume values of every tissue. Being a non-invasive and non-destructive technique, it provides a means of studying the development of carcass composition in a single animal during the various stages of its growth. Traditionally, these values were obtained from serial sacrifices of animals. Among other things and because the study is done with one animal, TC scans allow time and money savings, as well as improved accuracy of results.
Another use of CT scans is the possibility to obtain 3D reconstructions of the animal. Works are being done to virtually cut the animals and predict fat and muscle composition of each of the pieces, which would allow optimization of industrial animal cutting.
IRTA owns a CT scan that is being used in several research projects and as a service to companies. According to Maria Font, a researcher in IRTA at Monells, “The CT scan allows us to follow up tissue growth and analyze bones to view the effect the diet has on the composition of the animal.” Other possible uses are related to animal health such as diagnosis of rhinitis, genetic selection or the follow-up of industrial processes such the salting of ham.
The European Union has approved the use of CT scanning as a reference system to calibrate carcass classification apparatus.