Consultants weigh up carcase measurement technology

MLA releases report on benefits of objective carcase measurement.

THE case for a fast and widespread rollout of scientific measurement of saleable meat yield in beef processing plants has gained backing via some million dollar value predictions.

A year-long independent investigation has found a $417 million per year potential benefit, split equally between producer and off-farm sectors of the supply chain, is up for grabs from the full adoption of objective carcase measurement.

However, at the current rates of adoption, only $247m per year is likely to be realised to 2030, and as little as $73m a year at 2020.

The report was commissioned by Meat and Livestock Australia and undertaken by Greenleaf, Miracle Dog Consulting and S Williams Consulting.

Its findings come amid heated debate over the pros and cons of MLA’s ambitious $150m plan to see installation of Dual energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) technology, capable of accurately differentiating meat from bone, across every beef processing plant in the country.

MLA says the report reaffirms the financial benefits of rolling out objective management (OM) technology across the industry, and highlights the benefits of fast-tracking adoption.

The majority of the benefit - around 65pc -  relates to the measuring of lean meat yield, with the remaining benefits surrounding improvements in eating quality as well as productivity gains from animal health improvements on the back of increased producer feedback.

“Many of our global competitors are investigating OM technology, with New Zealand in particular developing technology for commercialisation and rollout similar to Australia,” Mr Norton said.

“There are also other similar industries who have implemented OM, in particular the Danish pork industry who face similar challenges to the Australian red meat industry with high processing costs compared to their international competitors.”

If the Australian red meat industry is to remain globally competitive we need to be innovative and embrace the use of new technology to boost productivity, according to Mr Norton.

“We know our industry has extremely high processing costs compared to many of our competitors, and this confirms the substantial industry-wide benefits of fast-tracking OM technology,” he said.

“The very real gains in processing automation, genetic improvement and data-based on-farm decision making from objective measurement technology will ensure that we can continue to remain globally competitive and boost profitability across the entire value chain.”

Meanwhile, the processing sector, which has concerns about the costs of DEXA and whether its touted benefits are proven, has commissioned its own review, run by consultants EY.

EY says consultation with the industry, independent subject matter experts and its research so far has raised a number of initial questions.

It is now seeking input from processors on those questions, which focus on the benefits, risks and preferred funding methods around the potential introduction of the DEXA technology.

Processor industry groups say they support the introduction of proven carcase measurement technology but need analysis of whether this DEXA investment would be a prudent operational and commercial decision.

EY are expected to release further communications of their current understandings over the next coming weeks and a final report should be ready in April.

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