Back to R&D main

Automated Beef Carcass Scribing

Project start date: 01 January 2002
Project end date: 18 June 2004
Publication date: 18 June 2004
Project status: Terminated
Livestock species: Grain-fed Cattle, Grass-fed Cattle


Scribing tasks carried out in Australian abattoirs incur high costs in terms of labour usage, and availability, as well as significant Occupational Health and Safety risks. As such, it was chosen as one of the tasks to address for automation.

During this Proof of Concept phase, it has been conceptually shown that a novel combination of a specifically adapted robot end effector, and appropriate image analysis software are able to control the robot to perform the required scribing tasks.

Further development of this technology requires the conceptual development of carcass stabilisation, robot arm controls, and selection of a suitable hydraulic saw to perform the scribe cuts in the appropriate position to produce brisket, spare ribs and quarter cuts.

During five months of investigation, three separate trials incorporating about 62 carcass samples were carried out in the meat processing facilities at Food Science Australia and also at Nippon Meats Oakey. The test outcomes have demonstrated that the IVP Ranger is an efficient system. The image laser scanning and processing of a 2.0 metre long carcass currently takes only 15 seconds.


  • Identification of carcass features on a digital image of a side of beef.
  • Applied developed feature rules to determine and show the scribe saw cut positions for brisket, spare rib and carcass quarter cuts by lines drawn on the digital image of the beef side.
  • Correlation of the image cut line data to the carcass morphology to determine the X, Y and Z coordinates of cut start and finish positions.
  • Determination of the saw physical motion requirements for bone thickness & other carcass characteristics.
  • Generation of the saw cut path trajectories.
  • Demonstration of the control program using captured data to dry run the robot arm.

Key findings

This project has presented considerable challenges in terms of carcass variation not only in terms of size and profile, but including variations in fat depth, colour and presentation. As a result, there remains further software refining to locate more detailed markers to assist in the scribing process.

At this stage, Food Science Australia has been able to successful locate and identify the 5th through to 12th ribs as well as spinal vertebrae, vertebrae joints, and featherbone, and the sternum joints.

As noted, further development work is required in the next project to achieve carcass stabilisation, as well as saw sterilising and bone dust removal regimes.

Benefits to industry

Subsequent to carcase dressing, splitting, and chilling, beef sides are prepared for the boning room with scribing cuts and rib cuts. This is a skilled manual task and features the use of a hazardous circular cutting saw.

Considerable value is added with the rib cutting task ensuring this product is efficiently utilising the carcase and meeting downstream customer specifications.

The benefits to the supply chain of an automated solution are process reliability with optimised utilisation and hence value of the carcase, workplace safety, and a contribution to labour supply sustainability.

MLA action

Two actions have been instigated since the conclusion of this project.

Firstly, the AMPC Technology committee agreed to fund Food Science Australia to conduct stage 2 of this development work with the following objectives:

The current project objectives are to develop a prototype robotic scribe saw system using a commercial circular saw to carry out the following:

Conventional scribe saw tasks:

  • longitudinal cut: Brisket from navel to point
  • longitudinal cut: Short Rib and other specialist oven ready cuts
  • transverse spine cuts: Carcass breakdown to alternative quarter specification
  • demonstrate the system in a laboratory environment, using the Food Science Australia Robot to keep project costs minimized.

Secondly, an Australian Beef processor has been provided R&D project funding approval to fast track the R&D of this project to a commercial installation. As such stage 2 shall be completed by Food Science Australia and whilst this is being completed the following companies have been provided with a detail terms of reference to quote on delivering a commercial unit to the Australian Beef processor:

  • Food Science Australia (Cannon Hill – Australia)
  • Industrial Research Limited (New Zealand)
  • Machinery and Robotics Automation (Sydney - Australia)
  • QED (United Kingdom)
  • Robotic Automation (Melbourne – Australia)
  • Scott automation (New Zealand)
  • SFK (Melbourne – Australia).

Related MLA projects

PRTEC.P.PIP.0288; P.PSH.0620; P.PSH.0579; P.PSH.0633; P.PIP.0116; P.PIP.0261; P.PSH.0508; P.PSH.0794

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: CSIRO, Food science Australia