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Optimization of pork eating quality by connecting the entire production chain

Meat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Producing pork meat is, however, not comparable with producing, a cookie, bread, cheese or a bottle of beer. Most food products are produced by putting ingredients together and process them. Producing pork starts with taking a carcass apart and dividing it into different parts and pieces for either fresh or further processed meat production.

In a pig processing plant it is more and more important to get the right part with the right quality to the right customer. Firm and pink loins for Japan, fat and marbled hams for dry curing in Southern Europe, ribs for the USA, trimmings for sausage production, fat bellies for South Korea, white pig heads for China, juicy pork chops for retail, etc. etc. For each carcass in a processing plant it has to be decided how it is going to be divided into these different products. A lot of money can be won or lost by making the final carcass dissection decisions. New modern ultrasound technology enables meat companies to get a better prediction of the carcass composition. These technologies create thousands of data points per carcass that are transformed into relevant carcass composition data by using company specific algorithms. Furthermore, in line measurements of meat quality characteristics are developed to get the optimal product quality per carcass primal (ham or middle) to the right customer.

Besides carcass and meat quality characteristics there is also other information gathered per pig carcass in the slaughter line. These include health characteristics, boar taint detection, full stomachs, etc. More and more information is becoming available per carcass or batch of products. Vion has developed a system called FarmingNet to connect with the pig farmers. Via this system a pig farmer can plan his transport and delivery of pigs to the processing plant. Some basic information like feed company and genetics can be - or - is made available. As soon as the pigs are processed the farmers receive the carcass and health data back from the pig processing plant concerning the pigs he delivered. A pig farmer can use this data to benchmark himself against the database average.

Within the Vion pork production chain we also started to measure the water-holding capacity of the meat with Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS). Water-holding capacity is responsible for the juiciness and tenderness experience of pork by the consumer. The carcass composition and meat quality is for a large part determined by the on farm conditions (genetics, feed composition, type of feeding, housing system, health, time of feed withdrawal before transport to the pig processing plant). At this moment, however, there is not a connection between all this available information per pig and the eating quality measurements with the NIRS technology.

One of Vion’s aims in the CYBELE project is to make this connection possible with the help of camera tracking and smart learning systems in cooperation with scientists from ILVO Research. Within the CYBELE project Vion can than determine, which farmers delivers pigs with better meat quality and how they are doing this. Real time sharing of these data will make it better to plan carcass dissection decisions, demand specific sales and optimize the entire pork production chain from farm to plate.



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