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Rural R&D for Profit Program: Advanced Livestock Measurement Technologies for Globally Competitive Australian Meat Value Chains (ALMTech)

Project start date: 01 June 2016
Project end date: 11 December 2020
Publication date: 23 November 2020
Livestock species: Grain-fed Cattle, Grass-fed Cattle, Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: National
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Historically, lean meat yield (LMY) and eating quality (EQ) have been difficult traits to measure in the beef, pork and lamb industries. LMY is commonly estimated from simple tissue depth measures in beef and lamb, while the pig industry uses an ultrasound measure of carcase fatness. For EQ, neither lamb nor pork has measures that can differentiate carcases, while the internationally acclaimed Meat Standards Australia (MSA) system for predicting EQ in beef relies on visual grading, rather than objective measures.

Accurate measurements of LMY and EQ enable the industry to be responsive to market demands, while minimising value-chain wastage. In the Australian beef industry, wastage costs an estimated $130million/year from producers supplying cattle not meeting customer requirements, with similar inefficiencies in the lamb and pork industries. In addition to the cost of wastage, the lack of measurements and feedback impedes transparency of trading, thus eroding trust across the livestock value chain.

The ALMTech I program of work has created significant productivity and profitability improvements for primary producers by executing 70 sub-projects under three main areas of research:

  • generating knowledge, technologies and products that benefit primary producers
  • strengthening pathways to extend the results of rural research and development (R&D), including understanding the barriers to adoption
  • establishing and fostering industry research collaborations that form the basis for ongoing innovation and growth of Australian agriculture.


This project investigated significant productivity and profitability improvements for primary producers under the following objectives:

  • provide beef, lamb and pork producers with access to more accurate descriptions of the attributes that influence the value of their livestock: carcase LMY, EQ and compliance to market specifications
  • develop an early-stage equipment prototype to objectively determine offal condemnation
  • enhance feedback systems to provide producers with new information to improve decisions on breeding and compliance to market specifications
  • deliver new tools and data to processors to improve processing efficiency and provide feedback to producers
  • capitalise on the co-operation of industry stakeholders to maximise effective decision making, reduce risk and optimise profit for all partners
  • develop and improve these technologies and systems to increase competitiveness and profitability in Australian meat value chains.

Key findings

The project was organised into six programs and various sub-programs:

  • Program Executive (planning and management)
  • Program 1: Development of lean meat yield (LMY) technology
  • Program 2: Development of eating quality (EQ) measurement technology
  • Program 3: Development of robotic technology
  • Program 4: Industry databases
  • Program 5: Data decision systems

The project developed direct and indirect measurement technologies for LMY of live animals and their carcases:

  • On-farm, these included 3D imaging cameras for cattle and microwave back-fat scanners for cattle and sheep.
  • In abattoirs, DEXA imaging systems were installed and calibrated in three lamb abattoirs. A DEXA system was installed in a commercial beef abattoir, with early results demonstrating robust translation into this environment.
  • Indirect technologies were developed in abattoirs, including a 3D imaging camera for beef, a microwave fat-depth scanner for lamb and beef, and the PorkScan Mk2 system.
  • A suite of technologies were developed for predicting EQ traits in beef and lamb carcases, including loin eye cameras requiring a cut surface, and probe and X-ray technologies that do not require a cut surface.
  • The probe technologies included two inter-muscular needle–probe designs using differing applications of spectral imaging to measure hot or cold carcase intramuscular fat (IMF) % in lamb and beef.
  • Four loin-eye cut surface technologies were investigated: Frontmatec, E+V, Meat Imaging Japan and TenderSpec. The E+V camera was successfully installed, and AUS-MEAT accredited, in one beef abattoir. The Frontmatec beef hyperspectral camera was successfully calibrated, progressed to manufacture, and is due for Meat Standards Australia (MSA) and AUS-MEAT accreditation and full commercialisation in 2021.
  • In lamb and beef, the potential of DEXA and Computed Tomography (CT) technology to predict EQ including IMF% was demonstrated.

Benefits to industry

This program of work related to objective measurement creates a discounted net benefit of $383 million for the collective industries, with an estimated benefit cost ratio of 4:1.

The coordination of calibration and validation testing across common groups of genetically-defined animals enables transparent comparison between technologies, and the seamless integration of their measurements into new or enhanced genetic tools and industry feedback systems.

MLA action

MLA led a successful application for a second Rural R&D for Profit grant, which provides the ALMTech RD&A program an additional three years of funding through to June 2022.

Future research

In the immediate future, industry will require continued support to adopt and make best use of the new measurement technologies and for ongoing auditing and calibration testing.

ALMTech programs

  • Program Executive
    • Sub-program E.1: Project planning and management
    • Sub-program E.2: Communication and extension activities
    • Sub-program E.3: Industry liaison and value estimation
    • Sub-program E.4: General management of technology calibration
  • Program 1: Development of lean meat yield (LMY) technology
    • Sub-program 1.1: Design prototype technology for the direct and indirect measurement of LMY on-farm, and establish the business case for its measurement
    • Sub-program 1.2: Design prototype technology for the direct measurement of LMY in an abattoir
    • Sub-program 1.3: Design prototype technology for the indirect measurement of LMY in an abattoir
  • Program 2: Development of eating quality (EQ) measurement technology
    • Sub-program 2.1: Near infra-red/Boar taint
    • Sub-program 2.2: Imaging cut surface
    • Sub-program 2.3: Blue sky technologies
  • Program 3: Development of robotic technology
    • Sub-program 3.1: Development of an automation prototype for beef
  • Program 4: Industry databases
    • Sub-program 4.1: Data flow to industry information delivery systems
    • Sub-program 4.2: Data flow to industry genetic evaluation systems
  • Program 5: Data decision systems
    • Sub-program 5.1: Carcase value tools
    • Sub-program 5.2: Data decision tools
    • Sub-program 5.3: Supply chain engagement

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Murdoch University