Report Detail Page
SmartStim (Gen Two) stimulation systems for processors
Improving the consistency of eating quality of Australian beef and lamb is one of MLA's strategic objectives. A significant source of variation in eating quality results from factors within the processing sector providing the opportunity to develop technology interventions to increase the eating quality of red meat. For optimum eating quality, muscles should enter rigor mortis (pH6) at a temperature range of around 180C. Outside this range muscle contraction occurs and is detrimental to eating quality. For example, muscle begins to heat toughen when temperature exceeds 350C at pH6 and begin to cold shorten when less than 120C at pH6.
Generation 1 (Gen 1) stimulators deliver a fixed dose of stimulation for a fixed period but carcases have variation in pH decline and require different amounts of stimulation. Generation 2 stimulation (Gen 2 or SmartStim) was developed to apply a variable stimulation based on carcase response to an electrical test pulse. In theory this tailored stimulation could bring all carcase pH declines through a tighter pH/temperature decline curve, reducing variability resulting in improve meat quality. Furthermore, the test pulse could potentially estimate post chilling carcase grading outcomes, enabling a range of early management interventions pre-chilling.
In addition there was a belief that Smart Stim would improve meat colour at grading.
Research & facilitated adoption
SmartStim was developed by Carne Tech as the service provider, as part of the jointly funded MLA and Meat & Wool New Zealand MQST eating quality program. Several iterations of the SmartStim technology were developed and trialled in both New Zealand and Australian processors.
Key elements of the electronics were developed by CPE Systems (previously Merit of Measurement), as a follow on project to the initial implementation of SmartStim, which was based on using a standard PC as the SmartStim controller.
SmartStim R&D was funded under projects P.PSH.0224,PSH.0269,P.PSH.0271,P.PSH.0321,P.PSH.0555 P.PSH.0386, P.PSH.0455, A.MQT.0064 and A.MQT.0062.
Evaluation & trials
A series of trials were undertaken in both Australia and New Zealand, including both sheep and beef plants. These did not conclusively prove that Gen 2 (SmartStim) was consistently superior to Gen One systems as regards managing pH declines, or that meat colour would be improved. A comprehensive cost/benefit analysis (CBA) was undertaken under project A.MQT.0050, on the assumption that the technical merits claimed for SmartStim were achievable.
However, the CBA concluded the following:
Even if there was a significant improvement in the meat quality factors the increase in value to processors is not significant.
- Assuming the technology was used to optimise eating quality for the end consumer the value would not be realised by the processer at this point in time.
- Assuming the technology was used to optimise short-term meat colour only beef processors would gain but at the exoense of downstream customers and end-users. Most processors are focused on consumer eating quality and longer term brand sustainability rather than on this sort of short term gain.
Any technology purported to generate short term gain at expense of consumer satisfaction should be treated with extreme caution.
Based on the above, MLA and MWNZ decided not to invest further funding into SmartStim technology. However, Carne Tech is marketing a version of SmartStim to processors as an alternative to existing Gen One systems.
This page was last updated on 21/06/2017
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