Coronavirus has delayed the commercial introduction of US-developed grading cameras in the Wagga Wagga abattoir of major beef processor and exporter, Teys Australia.
The VBG2000 grading camera was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and commercialised by E+V Technology in Germany.
The camera measures marbling and fat and meat colour over the rib eye surface area and has been installed in many meat plants in the US.
Jasmine Green, from Teys Australia's NSW Strategic Operations, said travel bans because of COVID-19 had prevented a final review and on-site verification before the cameras were switched on for commercial use.
Speaking on a CQUniversity hosted webinar on new technologies to measure eating quality of beef and lamb, Ms Green said Teys, Australia's second largest beef processor and exporter, planned to roll out the cameras in more of its six plants.
(Teys Australia is a partnership between the Teys family and global food and agriculture giant, Cargill.)
"Camera grading or machine grading for quality is relatively common in the US and there are several technologies approved under the USDA grading system.
"The attraction for these particular cameras (VBG2000) for us was that they had been designed for quality grading of beef carcases and successfully implemented into these commercial settings in US plants."
Some of those plants were processing up to 5000 head a day which showed the cameras were robust and able to stand up to tough conditions in chillers.
Ms Green said the VBG2000 cameras were set up for the US carcase quality scoring system which was very different to MSA grading and Aus-Meat meat specifications in Australia.
Much work and testing had been done to ensure the accuracy and repeatability of results using the cameras in the Wagga plant, she said.
"We are really excited about how we can use this technology to assist our graders with their tasks and help us providing these objective carcase measurements that people are looking for."
Talking on the same webinar Dr Pete McGilchrist from New England University provided an update on potential new objective grading technologies for cut meat surfaces being investigated by the Advanced Livestock Technologies Project (ALMTech).
He said the development of objective carcase quality measurement technology would help reduce human error in the grading process.
More consistency and accuracy in meat grading across the industry would add extra value to meat brands and products.
Dr McGilchrist said the Frontmatec loin eye camera was producing good results for eye muscle area, MSA and Aus-Meat marbling and meat and fat colour.
Algorithms had been developed for MSA and Aus-Meat traits for the Meat Imaging Japan Camera after testing on more than 1200 carcases but more work was needed.
The VIAScam Carcase Assessment System, which uses an RGB vision camera, had come back on the scene and was undergoing hardware and software upgrades.
It was hoped after more repeatability trials an application would be made for Aus-Meat accreditation.
ALMTech was now working with large-scale Queensland Wagyu breeder, Darren Hamblin, to further improve his Masterbeef Camera which measures a range of traits including intramuscular fat (IMF) percentages, Aus-Meat marbling, marble fineness and distribution, and meat and fat cover.
The story Teys Australia ready to switch on the cameras at its Wagga plant first appeared on Farm Online.