Australia opening world’s first beef boning automation R&D room

China lifts 20-year ban on British beef
Credit: Salvador Aznar

Australia is opening the world’s first beef boning automation R&D room as the red meat industry looks to slash processing costs and increase boning room yield efficiency.

MLA Donor Company (MDC) will invest up to $32.4 million over five years enabling Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), in collaboration with beef processor, Teys Australia, and solution providers, to develop beef boning automation technology.

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.

The program will not utilise any producer or processor levies, with Teys Australia co-funding the beef boning automation R&D room at its facility in Rockhampton in Queensland, with matching R&D contributions to come from the federal government.

MLA Managing Director Jason Strong said with Australia reportedly having one of the world’s most expensive processing sectors, 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.

“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.”

Mr Strong said MLA had undertaken industry consultation with more than 20 processors on beef boning automation and will continue to work with other Australian processors and hold regular updates.

“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,” he said.