DEXA, IMF tools vital to prove lamb’s premium status
November 15, 2019

By Bonnie Skinner

Product Integrity Policy Manager

Sheep Producers Australia endorses the evolution of our value chains to support objective measurement and incentives for behaviour on-farm which increases the value of lamb and sheepmeat.

Objective measurement is important because:

  • To consistently provide a quality product to consumers, we must be able to measure its quality. Lamb is a premium product but we have to be able to prove that it is.
  • Processors need to benefit by being able to direct product to the right customer, to create cost efficiencies and improve profitability.
  • Information can move along the supply chain showing the quality of the product and information and price signals can seamlessly flow back to producers to help us further improve our businesses.

Recent research and development into technologies such as DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) to measure lean meat yield (LMY) and devices to measure IMF (intramuscular fat – a measure of eating quality indicating juiciness and flavour) has demonstrated their potential in our supply chain.

DEXA and LMY

DEXA technology provides timely, accurate, transparent and objective information on the lean meat, bone and fat composition of whole carcases. It is intended to improve on-farm and processing efficiency and help deliver a product which is preferred by consumers.

So far DEXA is installed at Bordertown, Brooklyn, Gundagai, Frewstal and WAMMCO abattoirs. While this is a good start, SPA would like to see this technology rolled out at all abattoirs in Australia.

Intramuscular fat

IMF is a measure of the chemical fat percentage in the loin muscle of a lamb, and the visible component is known as marbling. IMF has been shown to have a large effect on the sensory characteristics of lamb, including flavour, juiciness, tenderness and overall liking.

Through LAMBPLAN, breeding values for rams and ewes are calculated by using consumer testing of samples of meat from their lambs. Selecting meat sheep rams and ewes for high post weaning weight and high muscularity has been shown over recent years to reduce IMF and therefore eating quality in their progeny.

At present, there is no measure for IMF on the processing chain however trials are underway on two spectral imaging devices from overseas and both are progressing towards AUS-MEAT accreditation.

Do we need both?

For the lamb industry there is a need for both LMY as calculated by DEXA and IMF to be measured at chain speed during processing. This will ensure consumers are guaranteed a quality product; producers can adjust their ram selection for a balance between yield and eating quality in lambs produced; and processors can optimise boning, target specific markets and potentially reward producers.

These tools are only one part of the discussion. In next month’s column, SPA will outline why industry systems such as Meat Standards Australia and Livestock Data Link are vital to ensure lamb’s future as a quality product is guaranteed.

© 2019 Sheep Producers Australia