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World-first development in eating quality for the Australian lamb industry

17 November 2021

Lamb processors and brand owners in Australia will be able to benchmark their product and ensure it meets their customer needs following commercial accreditation of an intramuscular probe that measures a key eating quality trait in lamb.

The Australian Meat Industry Language and Standards (AMILS) committee approved the accreditation application for the MEQ Probe today.

Used in abattoirs on hot carcases at line speed, the probe provides real-time information to meat processors on intramuscular fat (IMF), an important eating quality trait. This data can be used across the supply chain to inform branding and alignment to customer specifications, and back to on-farm to producers, helping to inform decisions that drive further value in the lamb industry.

The hand-held probe has three imaging needles which are inserted into the loin muscle at the 12-13th rib of hot carcases where it undertakes a spectral analysis to predict IMF.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) Program Manager for Objective Measurement, Richard Apps, said MLA had invested with industry partners in the research and development of the Probe because of its potential to be transformational for the red meat industry.

“The commercial reality of the MEQ Probe will ensure Australia maintains its status as a global leader in red meat innovation and production – no other country is using this technology,” Mr Apps said.

“There is also a huge benefit for the lamb supply chain with the technology allowing instant feedback to producers, so they are able to ascertain the IMF within their flock and plan how to improve or maintain IMF by using tools such as Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) and more targeted nutrition.”

The accreditation of the probe also supports the commercialisation of the new Meat Standards Australia (MSA) sheepmeat cuts-based model.

Based on over 10 years of research, this model will revolutionise the sheepmeat industry by enabling producers, processors and brand owners to extract further value across the supply chain through eating quality segregation. The model uses three eating quality measures, including IMF, on each carcase, to predict the eating quality of nine cut by cooking method outcomes (grill and roast) for each carcase.

MEQ Probe’s CEO, Remo Carbone said as the world’s second-largest producer of lamb, it is fitting that Australia is leading the way in creating new standards for the eating quality of meat.

“A certifiable measurement such as those generated by MEQ Probe provides opportunities across the entire lamb supply chain, from producers to retailers - but most importantly it will give assurance to consumers about the quality of the lamb they eat,” Mr Carbone said.

“The accreditation of MEQ Probe as the first grading technology to accurately measure lamb’s eating quality is a major milestone not just for us, but for Australia’s entire agtech sector. We’re excited to be pioneering this vital technology that will help differentiate our meat sector on the global stage.

“We’re also hugely grateful for the support of our initial clients, and for the work of industry partners such as MLA, AMPC and of course AUS-MEAT in bringing these new standards to life.”