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LEAP 4 Beef Cut information translation

Did you know spray marking carcases can simplify and improve automated beef boning?

Project start date: 15 June 2019
Project end date: 30 September 2020
Publication date: 27 February 2020
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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The shape and position of a cut of beef can change significantly during the automated cutting process if the carcase moves. Carcase marking eliminates the need to re-scan the product each time cuts are made. This will allow vision software to subsequently detect the shifted cut position, enabling the machine to follow the new correct cut path. 

This project reviewed and tested marking technologies to assess their ability to translate cut information during automated carcase cutting.

Three different marking methods were prototyped and tested; spray marking with ink, rotary scoring and spot drilling. Spray marking with ink had the greatest potential to effectively mark beef carcases, as it is easily visible to machine operators and is automatically detectable with vision software.


This project evaluated the ability of different devices to mark the required cut locations on a carcase. The different markings were analysed on their effectiveness, manual visibility, automatic detection and the ability to be translated through the proposed automated cutting process.

Key findings

  • Spray marking lines and dashes with ink were clearly visible to the operators and easily detected with vision software. The ink can be applied without the need to touch the carcase and is resistant to rubbing and sprays of water. The ink was red and brown coloured and was inoffensive to consumers as it blended in to the meat and blood.
  • The rotary scoring lines were visible to operators but were problematic when vision software tried to find them. For this reason, rotary scoring was discounted for future development.
  • Drilled spot holes were detectable when they were large (3-5mm) and when specific lighting and camera angles were used. Consistent cutting across the length of the carcase is difficult to achieve so the development of this process will only proceed if spray marking proves problematic.

Benefits to industry

The proposed spray marking system will simplify automated beef boning and will help improve meat yield of cuts.

MLA action

Three other ongoing MLA projects (P.PSH.1200; P.PSH.1204; P.PSH.0893), are being established to mitigate the risk of knowledge gaps to ensure that the $30 million investment for the beef boning automation (P.PIP.0772) project has the most successful outcome.

Future research

Future projects could develop spray marking and spot drilling processes for beef and other red meat carcases.

The impact on accuracy from the marking system needs to be considered against alternative methods, such as maintaining the cut path based on carcase features instead of ink markings.

Related resources

MLA final reports

External news articles

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Scott Automation & Robotics Pty Ltd