Red meat industry looks forward

19 Dec, 2016 02:00 AM
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Meat & Livestock Australia general manager for research, development and innovation Sean Starling.
We can't just listen to people inside our industry, we need to consult global leaders in their field
Meat & Livestock Australia general manager for research, development and innovation Sean Starling.

IMAGINE a world where feedlot induction staff might wear glasses through which holograms of animals are beamed so they can detect diseases or defects.

Or an invisible microwave ray could 'zap' external microbiological diseases in cattle or meat.

What if cattle could be routinely CT (computerised tomography) scanned so health checks could be conducted in the same no-fuss, cost-efficient way luggage is inspected at airports or humans in the medical industry?

It may seem space-age but work is actually now underway to make these concepts a reality.

They are just a few of the cutting-edge areas where Meat and Livestock Australia's (MLA) research, development and innovation team is drawing on existing technology in other fields like medicine, health, aviation and the military to give our beef, goat and lamb producers a big leg up.

MLA's general manager of that department, Sean Starling, gave a tantalising overview of some of the incredible concepts in the pipeline at the organisation's annual general meeting in South Australia last month.

It's the job of his team to constantly scan the world for technologies and tools beef processors and producers might be able to adapt.

They have reviewed 72 'stunning' things that don't exist now but are expected to be common within 10 years.

One of those is virtual or augmented reality and Mr Starling said it could be possible, based on technology already out there, to give feedlot induction workers the ability to assess internal images of animals, allowing them to detect diseases or defects and maybe get a read-out of what an animal should be fed for its next phase.

MLA researchers have run meat through baggage CTs at airports and the equipment has potential to be adapted to the red meat industry.

He also presented a rundown on a new device developed by the United States defence force that delivers an "unnerving non-lethal sensation" which effectively halts crowd movement.

Called the Active Denial System, it utilises an electromagnetic radiation beam similar to that of the kitchen microwave oven.

It's application to the beef world could be extensive, not just in fighting disease.

"We could 'zap' every mince piece or primal cut leaving a processing facility and place it in a sterile bag - effectively eliminating any food safety issue for all products leaving Australia," Mr Starling said.

MLA's researchers have trialled the technology but there was a need to fine-tune the hardware, he said.

"Within 12 months we should know if we are on a winner with this one," Mr Starling said.

Aviation security systems by Rapiscan, with real-time tomography systems which screen luggage at airports at high speed and low operating and maintenance costs, is also being investigated for its relevance to red meat.

It could work hand-in-glove with the first stage of objective carcase measure, DEXA (Dual energy X-ray Absorptiometry) grading, to be introduced next year to processing plants, according to Mr Starling.

"Every animal we DEXA grade we put through a medical CT scanner to work out the algorithms that make this know-how work for our industry," he said.

"Ideally, we'd put CT scanners into every plant and feedlot but that is not cost-effective, with current medical CT offerings.

"It took seven years to negotiate but we have just had clearance to run meat through baggage CTs and we think they have potential to be adapted to our industry."

DEXA grading provides timely, accurate, transparent and objective information on the lean meat, bone and fat composition of each carcase.

It is technology that has been used for decades in the medical field and recently extended to the health and fitness sphere, Mr Starling said.

Gyms are now offering people fitness programs that measure how much meat, bone and fat they have and then program their exercise regime and food intake to change those proportions.

The message from this, according to Mr Starling, is if you just measure weight you limit what you can do with your body.

"If we just monitor lean meat yield and deliver that feedback, we may drive the industry in a direction not entirely healthy - we need to balance it with eating quality feedback," he said.

"We have MSA (Meat Standards Australia) there that works well in conjunction with lean meat yield feedback but we are also looking to further develop objective measures on eating quality."

Mr Starling said the red meat industry needed to consult widely around innovation.

"We can't just listen to people inside our industry, we need to consult global leaders in their field or we will miss opportunities," he said.

"Who would have thought the aviation industry or Donald Trump's defence force might provide us a solution."

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FarmOnline
Shan Goodwin

Shan Goodwin

is the national beef writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media.
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

newbroom
19/12/2016 12:16:07 PM, on Farm Weekly

Nothing but shameless self promotion. Day dreaming by people who do not know the sharp end of profitability and sustainability and trying to dazzle the punters with shiny things.

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