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Sheep Meat Industry Embracing Innovation

01 April 2013

IRELAND - Innovation drives positive changes in efficiency, productivity, competitiveness and ultimately helps to build market share, according to Declan Fennel from the Meat Division of Bord Bia – Irish Food Board.

Innovation is regarded as a catalyst for growth and indeed the global sheep meat industry is embracing the concepts of product and process innovation.

Some examples of this include robotic butchers. The potential to automate the lamb deboning process can deliver many benefits and cost efficiencies to sheep meat industry.

However, is there a robotic substitute to the skilled butcher who is adept at reducing meat waste and finding the right balance of fat and muscle that will eventually become that juicy lamb chop?

According to Scott Technology Ltd, who have partnered with Silver Ferns Farms they have successfully pioneered and commericalised a fully automated lamb deboning process which involves measuring carcass dimensions with X-ray technology to improve cutting efficiencies. In a state of the art facility, this New Zealand processing plant is fully automated and uses robotic arms, conveyor belts and an X-ray machine to process full lamb carcases.

Anzco Foods together with a group of New Zealand sheep farmers have come together to promote a new range of the Longdown breed of lamb with Waitrose supermarket, ensuring that branding creates a point of distinction and differentiation.

With a distinctive gunmetal silver pack featuring the New Zealand koru (fern), a strong emphasis is placed the eating characteristics of the Longdown breed which comes in six offers to include cutlets, joints, rib, burgers, kebabs and rolled roasts.

Emulating the success of what the Angus and Hereford breeds did for the beef category, the opportunity to promote lamb by specific sheep breeds has the potential to create a point of distinction and differentiation.

A new method of measuring lamb meat tenderness using a world-first handheld laser probe is being tested in Australia and could potentially help producers receive premiums for quality, tender lamb.

The technology which was developed by the University of Bayreuth Germany, works on the principles of Raman spectroscopy which involves analysing the way light at certain wavelengths behaves when it hits a structure, including meat.

Whilst the technology is still a long way off from being commercialised, current research is focusing on assessing the spectre of light that results from using the probe on lamb and relating it to meat quality traits, such as tenderness.

In time, this handheld laser probe could be developed further to deliver objective marbling and fat measurements which could be used by producers and processors to meet market specifications.

TheMeatSite News Desk

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