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Research, development & facilitated adoption of NIR measurement of key eating quality traits


NIR is one of several spectroscopic tools for determining chemical and physical properties of food and food products covering an electromagnetic spectrum from 780nm-2500nm.

NIR has been shown to measure fat, moisture and protein content of meat. NIR allows a non-destructive multiconstituent chemical analysis in just a few seconds. The NIR technology provides many of the key attributes needed for rapid process control being; intrinsically safe, rugged and easy to integrate into a system.

Early Research

NIR has been investigated as a means of carcase trait measurtement since at leat 1998 (see the MRC project report from M.920).

Recent Research

More recently, Park et al amongst others have identified near-infrared reflectance as a method for predicting beef tenderness. The release of a commercial application for beef tenderness testing, QualitySpec, was announced in 2007.

The US company, Analytical Spectral Devices, Inc (ASD) is the manufacturer of this instrument that claims to allow the processor a real-time, non-invasive, indicator of the tenderness of the meat. However, there are limitations in the accuracy and predictability of the US technology given that it is incompatible with Australian processing and grading systems. In particular, this measurement predicts objective tenderness at 14 days post-mortem for one Bos Taurus cut only.

The cattle in Australia are Bos Indicus thus the algorithm developed by ASD is not applicable in Australia. Research on the application of Near Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy, jointly funded by MLA and MWNZ, has produced results which indicate that there is significant potential to use this technique as a high quality on-line measurement technology.

It is particularly useful in assisting the determination of eating quality attributes including tenderness, juiciness and other quality traits that consumers relate to either a good or bad meat eating experience. The overall aim of the projects to date has been to develop an on-line commercial method on at least one measurement site to accurately and reproducibly measure specified quality and/or eating quality traits on beef carcasses or meat portions using commercially available VISNIR technology.

Research jointly funded by MLA & AgResearch into measurement of beef eating quality traits using Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) was completed in September 2009.

In 2009, project P.PSH.0319  reviewed the feasibility of measuring ossification by NIR. MLA hads shown ossification has been shown to have a significant impact on eating quality. Previous work on sheep had shown a potential ability for NIR to measure ossification. The measurement point showing most promise was upon the 6th rib, within the chest cavity. However, it was not known if this would hold for cattle, or indeed a new population. This trial looked to identify the best measurement location, and obtain some rough estimates of likely precision that might be possible.

Current R&D

The role of NIR is currently (2016) under review as part of a wider investigation of objective measurtement options, both for caracssses (OCM) and live animals (OAM).


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This page was last updated on 21/06/2017

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