Microwave fat depth device has uses for lambs, cattle and pigs

Sheep Central, August 14, 2023

The microwave device being used on a lamb carcase. Image – ALMTech.

A HAND-HELD device using microwave technology to measure the fat depth of live lambs and carcases is expected to be commercially available next year.

The non-invasive technology uses low power non-ionizing electromagnetic waves and can improve the accuracy of carcase measurement and help meat processors address labour shortages in the sector.

Western Australia’s Dardanup Butchering Company has been using the technology for measuring fat depth in lamb.

DBC general manager Brian Pittendreigh said the technology works really well with sheep.

“It’s much better than what we had been using before.

“The beauty of it is that it takes the human element out of the equation – it’s a machine that’s really accurately reading the fat depth rather than human eyes.”

The Advanced Livestock Measurement Technologies (ALMTech) program has been working to develop advanced measurements of red meat quality and quantity that will enhance the Australian beef, lamb, and pork industries’ ability to respond to demands and capture value-chain price differentials.

It is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry as part of its Rural R&D for Profit Program, in partnership with Meat and Livestock Australia, the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, Australian Pork Limited, commercial companies, state departments and universities.

DBC has been working with the ALMTech team for more than two years in assessing the performance of the microwave device and providing feedback to refine its design.

Mr Pittendreigh said the microwave device provided more accurate information to the business. DBC is interfacing the technology into its data recording systems, which would potentially provide some relief from the labour shortages affecting the industry.

“Since COVID, finding workers has been very difficult, so if this technology can eventually replace one work-station, then it will pay for itself pretty quickly,” Mr Pittendreigh said. “

“And if it can be enhanced to the point that it can measure intramuscular fat and meat yield, it will be a big asset for meeting our customers’ preferences.”

Mr Pittendreigh said the technology was also showing promising signs in assessing fat depth in cattle and pigs, although further refinement was needed before it could be deployed commercially.

“The prototypes have to be a little more robust to work on a commercial slaughter floor situation for a long period and that’s probably the most difficult final challenge that remains for the researchers,” he said.

ALMTech chief investigator Prof. Graham Gardner said AUS-MEAT accreditation had been successfully achieved for the use of the technology in assessing GR tissue depth in lamb, which acts as a crucial enabler in facilitating the adoption of the microwave probe across industry.

“Our ALMTech engineering team led by Dr Jayaseelan Marimuthu has really worked on this prototype to make the hardware more compact in size, have a longer battery life, and more robust in design with a splash-proof outer shell,” Prof. Gardner said.

“We’re confident that the technology will be commercially available early next year.

“The DBC installation is a crucial testing ground for this device,” he said.

“This result would not have been possible without the support of processors like DBC, which has worked hand in hand with researchers to develop this technology in a commercial environment and calibrate the accuracy of the measurement for multiple species and traits.”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -