Auto Aussie: Australian meat processors look to beef boning automation

Plans are afoot in Australia for the establishment of the world’s first beef boning automation research and development room, according to the country’s industry representative group Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

The aim of the plan is to reduce processing costs and increase boning room yield efficiency.

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

Using MLA’s “industry leadership” on lamb boning automation, known as LEAP, the move towards beef boning automation will see the research and development room developed, enabled by CT and DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) objective carcass measurement technology.

This is collectively referred to as Leap4Beef, according to MLA.

Teys Australia will co-fund the beef boning automation R&D room at its facility in Rockhampton, Queensland, with match research and development contributions to come from the federal government.

‘Benefit entire industry’

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 carcasses 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,” Strong said.

“Beyond movement in livestock prices, the single biggest impact on processing efficiency is the accurate segmentation and deboning of carcasses 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/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 carcass 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.

“MLA has conceptualised a revolutionary, global and scalable design for beef boning automation and, with industry partners, it will now make this innovation, Leap4Beef, a reality.”

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 research and development 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,” Strong stated.

Strong said, as well as productivity benefits, boning automation offers improved workplace health and safety benefits.