Beef processor Teys Australia is collaborating with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) via the MLA Donor Company (MDC) to develop the beef boning automation technology.
MDC will invest up to AUS$32.4m over five years with Teys providing additional funding for the project, located at its Rockhampton facility in Queensland. No producer or processor levies are to be used for the project.
The move towards beef boning automation will see the R&D room developed, enabled by CT and DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) objective carcase measurement technology and referred to as Leap4Beef, with a view to reducing processing costs and increase boning room yield efficiency.
MLA managing director Jason Strong said automating beef boning would reduce per head operating costs for the benefit of the entire Australian industry.
“Maximising the value of carcases through accurate cutting along with the increase in productivity through continuous flow in the boning room is vital to the sustainability of the Australian red meat industry,” he said. “Beyond movement in livestock prices, the single biggest impact on processing efficiency is the accurate segmentation and deboning of carcases into the highest primal value possible. It’s where the most significant improvements in processing industry efficiency can be made.
“Beef boning automation has been estimated to deliver at least a $30 per head benefit, with an estimated 40% of this benefit to return to producers. The developments will also provide a platform for other value adding outcomes, such as increasing producer feedback through DEXA and CT installations.”
Strong said that the domestic lamb industry had already seen cost reductions through a similar project. “We are seeing the benefits of lamb boning automation in Australian processing plants, with carcase values increasing by more than $6/head. More than 40% of large processing throughput now uses the technology, and pending installations will raise this to 71% of throughput.”
According to Strong, MLA held consultations with more than 20 processors on the technology and will continue to work with other Australian processors.
“The beef boning automation R&D room will be available for any solution provider to develop MLA/Teys approved initiatives and will be open for Australian processors to visit to see the developments and evolution of the technology,” added Strong.
Teys chief value chain officer Tom Maguire said: “Beef processing is one of Australia’s largest manufacturing industries employing thousands of Australians in rural and regional communities and this type of investment will help us secure its future for the long-term.
“Around the world, manufacturing has shown that it can maintain a competitive advantage provided it adopts the latest technologies and embraces the digital economy. There is no reason that the beef processing industry cannot be part of this.”
Maguire added that a “modern, efficient and productive processing system” could ensure Australia’s position in the international beef market.
“Automation of critical beef cutting lines has the potential to greatly improve consistency and quality of product offered to customers whilst improving the working conditions in our plants,” he said. “While we have much work to do to deliver an outcome, we are committed to getting the best and brightest minds to work with us on the project and getting the job done.”