Report Detail Page

2D, 3D & CT x-ray based scanning for measuring meat parameters


Radiography is the use of penetrating electromagnetic radiation such as x-rays to view sub-surface structures and objects.  Various technologies can be grouped under this area.  They include:

  • Projectional radiography or plain film radiography is the practice of producing two-dimensional images using a single energy source x-ray radiation (SEXA).
  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) utilises two X-ray beams with different energy levels that are aimed at the carcase. DEXA is the most widely used and most thoroughly studied bone density measurement technology, and best suited for body composition measurement of meat/fat/bone.
  • Multiple energy x-ray MEXA is also an emerging technology whereby photons of detected xray signal are segmented into 256 energy levels, once again providing a potentially rich source of data applicable to disease detection for instance;
  • Industrial computed tomography (CT) scanning is any computer-aided tomographic process, usually x-ray computed tomography, that (like its medical imaging counterparts) uses multiple irradiation images (usually with x-rays) to produce three-dimensional representations of the scanned object both externally and internally.

MLA has funded a series of projects that are primarily focussed on the demonstration of technical and commerical feasibility in the measurement of key eating quality or objective carcase measurements (OCM) via the above technologies, with the aim of measuring these at line speeds within a processor.

These measurements could then be made available to other participants in the supply chain (such as producers), allowing feedback on eating quality and facilitating value based marketing options.

As a secondary benefit, the same technologies can also be used as front end visioning systems to drive cutting automation (e.g. x-ray front end to LEAP III primal cutters), allowing more precise cutting lines and increasing processing efficiency.


Early R&D

In 1998, project M.796 assessed a technology that could determine the fat content of meat with the aid of nucleonic techniques.

Project A.SCT.0029

This summarised the A.SCT.00xx series of company managed activities into red meat OCM CT technologies.

Project A.SCC.0037

This covered a literature review of the critical impact of x-ray on RFID and shelf life of meat and lamb products.

Project A.SCT.0059

The main objective was to establish a suitable measurement methodology which would allow for accurate comparisons between hot and cold scans, and to assess if there was any difference in the CT measurement results, particularly of fat content, between hot and cold carcases.

The actual trial design consisted of two muscle primals, strip loin and cube roll. These primals were harvested hot from five different carcasses and divided into five replicate slices within each muscle and measured at both 2 hours post mortem, and again after a minimum of 24 hours chill at 5°C.

Establishment of the methodology included both the data capture process and the data analysis method. During the course of the trial work a suitable measurement technique was established for capturing the data, and several analysis methods were explored.

Perhaps most notably a difference was observed in the Hounsfield units of the peak for fat between hot and cold primals. Strip loin primals showed an increase of 51.5 HU from -111 (HU) at hot to -59.5 (HU). At a broad level further analysis was conducted using a thresholding analysis method to determine the total number of voxels within the fat range vs. total number of voxels outside the fat range. A significant correlation was observed between the predicted fat content of whole primals between hot and cold measurements (R2 0.99).

This observation is important as it suggests the ability to determine fat content in either hot or cold primals using CT scanning is the same.

A slight difference in density of muscle was observed between hot and cold scans, evidenced by a shift in the location of the muscle peak on the histogram. Again this trend was significant across all primals types showing an increase of 8 (HU) from hot to cold scans.


The aim of this project was to establish whether CT scanning can be used to determine intramuscular fat in lamb meat. This project value added to an existing Sheep CRC funded project where lamb carcasses from the sheep CRC information nucleus flock (INF) were already being CT scanned for whole body composition analysis.


Experimental studies conducted in Phase 1 (final report submitted to MLA) indicated:

  • That it is feasible to measure fat under hot-boning conditions.
  • Confirmed the large variability that exists within primals for Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grade versus chemical intramuscular fat (%). The correlation between MSA grade and chemical intramuscular fat (%) ranged from 0 to 0.94 across 20 primals.
  • Developed an equation (AdjR2 = 0.84) to estimate intramuscular fat in a primal but this equation still needs an independent evaluation.

Subsequently this cost benefit analysis (CBA) study was conduced (i.e., phase 2).  This study found that if a processor were to purchase a $500,000 CT machine (assumption) and if the current error rate on carcase yield measurement was approximately 1 mm at the P8 site then abattoirs processing > 500 head of cattle/day would benefit from installing a CT machine. Hot boning carcasses and the utilisation of a CT machine at a grading station on the slaughter floor has the potential to increase profitability.

A.MQA.0016 Helical scanning

This project was a 'proof of concept' that was to determine whether an industrial cone beam dual energy X-ray system generating a 3D carcase model by rotating the carcase at line speed, could provide sufficient data capture to directly measure a high number of carcase attributes. The results wee inconclusive owing to limitations in the software processing and camera, with further R&D recommended to address these limitations.

P.PSH.0753 Lamb DEXA producer feedback demonstration

This project was terminated by the processor due to space constraints and costs related to implementation in plant.  Another demonstration site is being pursued.

A.TEC.0123 In-situ CT Evaluation

An investigation into the potential of helical medical CT in the meat processing environment.

P.PIP.0530 Evaluation of 256EXA/MEXA

A preliminary evaluation of MEXA xray detectors.


Title Size Date published
1.5MB 22/08/2016
764.7KB 01/01/2014
472.5KB 01/02/2008
4.0MB 01/04/2010
2.7MB 01/10/2011
380.0KB 01/07/2011
1.1MB 12/08/2016
268.6KB 01/08/2014
829.4KB 20/06/2016
275.0KB 20/06/2016
4.9MB 29/06/2017
215.4KB 22/06/1998
474.4KB 01/03/2009
256.3KB 01/08/2009
1.4MB 01/09/2011


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Determination of intramuscular fat in lamb at an individual muscle and whole carcass level using computer aided tomography scanning.
01/05/2012 30/11/2013
Quantifying the benefits of developing a CT marbling solution
15/11/2012 30/06/2014
Line Scan CT for beef and lamb by rotating carcase
02/06/2014 05/05/2016
MAR 9601B1 X-Ray Development Trials
01/09/2011 01/11/2011
CT OCM Project - Risk 2, 5 and 10 further mitigation
01/05/2009 30/06/2009
3D X-Ray Developments
30/10/2011 01/11/2011
3D X-Ray Developments - Stage 2
01/07/2011 30/06/2012
Specialist Computer Tomography Conference Berlin 2011
01/06/2011 30/06/2011
Attend Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, USA
25/11/2011 01/03/2012
Objective Carcase Measurement CT Project - Phase 1 - Ability for CT to measure meat parameters
01/02/2008 30/06/2009
WAM4 - Developing CAT-Scan Parameters for Objective Carcase Measurement Program and Calibrating VIAscan Systems
08/05/2009 21/01/2010
Technical workshop on recommended CT technology
31/08/2007 30/09/2007
CT OCM Project - Risk 3 (hot marbelling) further mitigation
21/12/2009 06/05/2010
CT OCM Project - Risk 2, 3, 4 and 9 further mitigation
01/05/2009 30/09/2009
OCM Processor CEO Update visits
12/02/2009 12/05/2009
CMA - Objective Carcase Measurement - Support Work
01/11/2008 30/06/2009
Industry CMA
Objective Carcass Measurement Development (X-Ray and CT Scanning) – Stage 3 IMTEC Workshop (External Project Management)
06/06/2008 31/05/2009
Objective Carcass Measurement Developmen
30/08/2007 30/12/2007
Objective Carcase Measurement - Undergraduate 2008/09
23/11/2008 20/02/2009
Development of X-ray sensing technology
01/11/2007 30/06/2008
Objective Carcass Measurement – Phil Green
01/12/2007 29/02/2008
Objective Carcass Measurement Development (X-Ray and CT Scanning) – Stage 3 (Collection of Data from X-Ray system for Predictive Carcass Skeletal Model)
15/07/2007 30/12/2007
Objective Carcass Measurement Development (X-Ray and CT Scanning) - Stage 3 (Industry Dissemination of Findings and Futures Meeting)
05/06/2007 30/08/2007
Impact of CATscan radiation on colour stability in beef
15/08/2007 30/09/2007
Impact of CATscan radiation on colour stability in lamb and hogget meat
15/08/2007 30/09/2007
Objective Carcase Measurement Development (X-Ray and CT Scanning) - Stage 2 (External Project Management)
25/01/2007 03/02/2007
CMA - Objective Assessment of Detail Carcase Characteristics - Phase 2 P reliminary Data Gathering and Technical Specification Development
10/01/2007 31/08/2007
Industry CMA
Raw Data for the Development of Carcase Bone Models using X-Ray, Equipme nt Rental, Training and Supervision
15/01/2007 07/04/2007
Raw Data Collection for the Development and Technical Specification of C arcase CT Scanners.
01/12/2006 30/01/2007
CMA - Objective Assessment of Detail Carcass Characteristics - Phase 1 P reliminary Data Gathering and Technical Specification Development
30/07/2006 30/03/2008
Industry CMA
Literature Review of the Critical Impact of X-Ray on RFID and Shelf Life of Meat and Lamb Products
05/04/2007 05/06/2007
Lamb DEXA grading supply chain demonstration
01/02/2016 02/06/2016
CMA - Evaluation of baggage scanning technology
01/04/2017 30/06/2017
Industry CMA
CMA - Evaluation of airline baggage inspection system provider
09/08/2017 06/11/2017
Industry CMA

This page was last updated on 06/07/2018

Join myMLA today

One username and password for key integrity and information Systems (LPA/NVD, NLIS, MSA & LDL).

A personalised online dashboard that provides news, weather, events and R&D tools relevant to you.

Customised market information and analysis.

Learn more about myMLA

myMLA Sign Up

Already registered for myMLA?

Sign in here