15th June 2010

Processing trials to get underway in world-leading meat project

Red meat industry could benefit by up to £5 million a year

Trials at a Scottish meat processing plant are set to play a crucial role in a trailblazing project to develop an automated process to determine the eating quality of meat.

The £950,000 IMEQ (Integrated Measurement of Eating Quality) project, jointly funded by Quality Meat Scotland and the Scottish Government, will see Scotland first to have novel technology which could deliver benefits throughout the meat production chain.

The project will explore semi-automatic and automatic means of measuring pH, temperature, meat colour, carcase fat, eating and nutritional qualities. It aims to examine ways of integrating these measures into a new process for use on the line in abattoirs to replace the current limited system with one which is faster, less labour-intensive and less expensive.

The commercialisation of IMEQ research by the industry could then provide producers and processors with a new way to guarantee consumers a consistent eating experience every time they buy Scotch Beef or Lamb.

During a briefing on the forth-coming trials at Scotbeef’s Bridge of Allan processing premises today (Tuesday June 15th) Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, described the IMEQ project as “truly ground-breaking”.

Mr Lochhead said the red meat industry could gain up to £5 million a year as a result of added revenue and efficiency gains generated by the project, based on current prices and throughput levels.

“Our red meat industry is one of Scotland’s great assets. But competition on the domestic, European and world markets is fierce. We may be top of the league right now but we cannot afford to stand still.

“To maintain the premium of the Scotch brand we need to continue to invest and find new ways of satisfying consumer demands and expectations.

“The Integrated Measurement of Eating Quality project will integrate existing and emerging technologies, developed at home and around the world, to deliver new processes that aims to enable a comprehensive measurement of eating quality within the abattoir environment, rather than in the laboratory.”

The work is being undertaken by a consortium, lead by SAC and involving commercial companies and scientists

David Ross, Research Engineer, Sustainable Livestock Systems Group, SAC said: “Recent developments in research have shown the possibility of being able to use technology to measure meat and carcass quality in abattoirs in a semi-automatic or automatic way.

“This project presents an exciting opportunity for SAC and the other partners involved to develop these new processes and trials on the line at Scotbeef as an important part of the research and development.”

Donald Biggar, Chairman, Quality Meat Scotland, emphasised the importance of the project to the entire red meat supply chain which contributes £1.7 billion to Scotland’s GDP.

“Determining the texture and taste of meat involves a complex range of factors and this programme will carry out research to develop new processes for the rapid assessment of eating quality in the abattoir.

“Another extremely important aspect of the project, however, is the important information which will be signalled back up the chain to producers. This will allow grassroots farmers to adopt the best management systems to produce beef of a consistently high eating quality.”

The initial focus of the project will be on beef, with the aim to extend the technology to lamb and pork.

Sign up for the latest news and views