VIA of sheep carcases more accurate say experts

Industry representatives were today) presented with results of atrial showing that video image analysis (VIA) of sheep carcases was as accurate and more consistent than the expert classifiers.

Industry representatives were today presented with results of a trial showing that video image analysis (VIA) of sheep carcases was as accurate and more consistent than the expert classifiers at predicting carcase conformation, however it was less accurate and less consistent than the expert classifiers at predicting fatness.

The study also confirms that VIA offers sheep abattoirs a means of predicting both meat yield and primal weights.

The study, to evaluate the use of VIA for prediction of classification and meat yield, was jointly funded by the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX), Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and the Livestock and Meat Commission of Northern Ireland (LMCNI) and was managed by the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC).

A total of 1,800 carcases were used in the study to allow the development and validation of prediction equations. The study took account of different operational procedures e.g. suspension methods and dressing specifications, which may impact on industry uptake of VIA technology.

The VIA machine, from a German company, was compared against a panel of three UK expert classifiers from the MLC, Rural Payments Agency and Scottish Executive in addition to the MLC in-plant classifier.

Project manager, Kim Matthews of the MLC said: "The study was successful in developing prediction equations for conformation and fat class. The results showed that VIA performed as well as the MLC in-plant classifiers for conformation, but less well with respect to fatness.

"The study also demonstrated, based on a specific butchery method, the ability of VIA technology to predict meat yield and the weight of primal cuts. Overall VIA had a better predictive precision of saleable meat yield than current EUROP class/sub class based systems."

A spokesman for the sponsors said: "VIA machines can provide a rapid, repeatable, automated and objective way of assessing sheep carcase conformation and fatness and provide an alternative to current carcase assessment methods. VIA machines can also be used to predict saleable meat yield from individual carcases. This trial will enable the industry to assess the potential that the equipment offers in these areas of operation."