Alliance Group is rolling out artificial intelligence technology designed to identify eating quality in beef and lamb throughout its plant network.
The co-operative says it is partnering with Australian agtech solutions provider MEQ to deploy lamb and beef probes powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence to measure the intramuscular fat (IMF) levels in lamb and marbling percentages in beef.
It said the technology provided a real-time view of the eating quality of the meat produced across Alliance’s plant network.
IMF and ageing were believed to be the two largest contributors to the sensory experience when eating quality meat.
MEQ’s beef and lamb probes technology was the only one of its kind that had been industry-accredited by Australian red-meat body Aus-Meat.
The technology used a combination of spectral analysis and AI to accurately measure IMF in a carcass at the start of processing to capture a “fingerprint” within a loin muscle.
This provided the co-operative with objective, measurable data to give farmers visibility about the meat quality they were supplying.
Farmers would then be able to make informed decisions about breeding programmes and feed, leading to more-sustainable livestock management.
Alliance said it had been trialling the technology at two of its plants, Smithfield (Timaru) and Pukeuri (Oamaru), for the past nine months.
“Quality farming and quality processes are integral to Alliance’s promise of delivering only the best red meat to the world,” Alliance chief executive Willie Wiese said.
“Our farmers are always hungry for detailed information about the quality of their animals because ultimately, higher IMF and marbling readings translate into greater returns for them and the co-operative.”
Wiese said in pasture-based livestock production systems, IMF had a strong correlation with polyunsaturated fat — including omega fatty acids.
High IMF levels represented healthy fats, which were good for nutrition, he said.
“Through the use of MEQ’s cutting-edge technology, we can deliver strong IMF feedback to farmers. Working with MEQ arms us with the best data very early in our processes.”
Wiese said the benefits of this insight would flow down throughout the entire supply chain and ultimately, to the end consumer.
“It will enable us to build up and scale our premium programmes, which is a growing part of our business, and allow us to further differentiate our product offering to target consumers.”
MEQ’s probe technology did not require carcasses to be chilled to measure IMF or marbling.
This meant Alliance would also gain more time to determine cut design plans and optimise carcass value and allocation into branded ranges.
The technology also saved on chiller space and reduced energy consumption.
MEQ chief executive Remo Carbone said the company was pleased to work with Alliance to “reshape the future of farming” by providing real-time data-backed insights.
“Our AI-powered technology is unique in the way that it slots in seamlessly within processors’ existing infrastructure, but monumentally increases optimisation from herd and mob management all the way to chiller space at the point of carcass breakdown — the information gathered by the probes has transformative implications for each stage of the process.”