The x-ray technology is used to grade beef and sheep carcases, providing information to help improve quality and on-farm decision making, while also reducing the industry’s annual multimillion cost of grading.
The Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) initiative is expected to set a standard for scientific measurement of saleable meat yield, value-based marketing and industry-wide productivity gains with information shared across the supply chain.
MLA’s managing director Richard Norton announced at the association’s AGM in Hahndorf, South Australia, yesterday, that by adopting this system on a universal level, the technology was the only way to identify the potential of the data to benefit all of the industry.
To achieve this, MLA would need a commercial loan on behalf of the industry to fund the AUS$150 million one-off cost of installing Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) technology in up to 90 AUS-MEAT registered slaughter facilities.
“The most important product of objective carcase measurement is the data it will generate and MLA’s plan ensures that data will be available to all participants across the value chain,” explained Norton.
“We’re now at a stage where our smallstock DEXA technology is ready for commercial deployment, while for beef our DEXA research and development is nearing completion and ready for commercial installation trials in early 2017. Once the first stage of objective carcase measurement is installed, both systems will provide valuable information for the supply chain including saleable meat yield, bone and fat.
“The systems will become more and more valuable as ongoing research and development enhances the application of objective carcase measurement around all conceivable measures.”
Norton said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) interim report on the cattle and beef market supported Cattle Council of Australia’s focus on how the competitiveness of Australian beef and cattle markets could be improved by adopting OCM.
By universally adopting the technology, it could help reaffirm Australia’s red meat industry’s ability to compete on a global platform.
“Australia is a high-cost producer compared to some of our international competitors, so we need to constantly innovate and invest in productivity and efficiency improvements from the farm right through to the processor and ultimately to market,” added Norton.
“MLA’s plan will drive a shift from the current subjective grading of lamb and beef to a new system of livestock production and marketing where producers can be transparently rewarded against objective data and value measurements.
“On farm, that will stimulate further advances in genetics and livestock production systems. Within the processing plant the technology will reduce wastage and workforce injuries and boost productivity through the use of accurate, objective measurement and automation.”
Whilst developing the plan, Norton admitted that the MLA listened carefully to calls from the industry for more transparency in the process of grading carcases at abattoirs, as well as noting the ACCC’s comments about the integrity of the grading process.
“Under our plan, AUS-MEAT will be the whole-of-value chain independent regulator,” he commented. “AUS-MEAT will calibrate the system, conduct the audits and will also provide a complaints resolution process.
“Ensuring that the data generated from objective carcase measurement is accessible and easy for producers to use will further enhance the integrity of the grading system and also form the basis of MLA’s digital strategy.”
During the AGM, Norton revealed that the MLA had received in-principle support from the deputy prime minister and federal minister for agriculture Barnaby Joyce to introduce objective measurement across the industry, and will endeavour to consult the industry’s peak councils about the best way to structure the one-off cost of its introduction.
“Through collaboration and collective investment, this plan will generate value across the red meat industry, today tomorrow and through to beyond 2020,” concluded Norton.