Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has announced a major step forward in bringing automation to beef carcase deboning.
In a partnership with the Australian Meat Processor Corporation who represent factories, a pilot project is underway in a JBS factory in the state of Victoria to demonstrate how the technology works in a factory environment.
At this pre-production stage the focus is on removing the striploin from the carcase using a sensing approach to ensure maximum yield and efficiency.
The equipment has been developed by Scott Automation and Robotics in partnership with JBS Australia, and has been the culmination of developing several prototypes as part of an MLA Donor Company project with Teys Australia.
The work on an automated deboning system for beef processors is being undertaken on what is described as a modular basis.
This means that factory lines can adopt this technology on a staged basis, starting with the most valuable part of the carcase, the loin from where steak meat comes, and progress through the rest of the carcase when ready.
This work has already made considerable progress in lamb processing. However, like pigs and poultry, this sector is more automation friendly because the carcases are smaller and of a more uniform size.
Beef carcases on the other hand are much more variable in size and fat cover, making it more difficult to use robotics and mechanisation.
While there is optimism of a breakthrough in Australia, it is clear that much work needs to be undertaken to refine the process before full commercial application in beef factories.