New meat grading tools

This project will:

  1. Develop prediction algorithms for consumer based eating quality and lean meat yield (by muscle region) using both genetic and phenotypic (carcase grading) information residing in the Information Nucleus data base of approximately 10,000 lambs with full genetic and phenotypic information. This will be undertaken in close collaboration with the genetics team in Program 3 and include the development of genomic predictions for consumer based eating quality.
  2. Develop and calibrate at least 2 new machine based carcase grading tools with final validation in at least 5 collaborating lamb processing plants (= at least 50% of the national lamb slaughter) using established industry resource flocks.
  3. Develop a commercial cuts based Meat Standards Australia lamb carcase grading model (MSA Sheep meats) that predicts the eating quality (fail 2*, good every day 3*, better than every day 4*, premium 5*) of up to 10 cut x cook combinations from the carcase.
  4. Provide flexible decision support information to translate carcase grading and genetic prediction into carcase and/or genetic specifications that will underpin company (processor and retail) brands and their value.
  5. Develop an industry wide standard for managing and auditing carcase grading.
  6. Develop feedback systems to lamb producers using Meat & Livestock Australia’s Livestock Data Link and MSA program (

Calibration and evaluation of carcase grading tools requires a rigorous approach that encompasses the wide range of carcase types found in Australia (14 to 30+kg carcase weight) derived from diverse genetic backgrounds. An Information Nucleus design (now called the Industry Resource Flocks at the University of New England, Armidale and Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, Katanning) is the ideal structure to underpin genetic and carcase prediction.

The original Sheep CRC Information Nucleus design generated a unique resource whereby large numbers of slaughter lambs with full pedigree linked to an extensive series of phenotypes for traits related to lean meat yield and eating quality are in a centralised database. The data base currently has approximately 101,000 lamb records, which can through extrapolation be linked to bone out data and measures of meat colour, shear force tenderness, intramuscular fat and other biochemical indicators. This data base is further supported by sensory evaluation of two cuts (short loin and topside) from approximately 1,500 progeny thus allowing the team to develop associations between objective carcase parameters and the actual sensory score of the meat.

As part of this project, further sensory evaluation in combination with the objective carcase measures will be undertaken on an additional 1,000 carcases using the newly created Industry Resource Flocks (at the University of New England, Armidale and Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, Katanning) which have evolved to take the place of the CRC Information Nucleus. These flocks produce 2,000 slaughter lambs per year. These large data sets (existing and to be generated) represent a world leading and globally unique resource that puts Australia at least a decade ahead of international competitors.

Practical Wisdom Notes / Fact Sheets

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