September 25, 2009
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) lamb carcass instrument evaluation study will begin next week. The study is designed to ultimately augment the assessments currently conducted by USDA meat graders by means of a more objective evaluation. The video image analysis technology will provide exacting precision, accuracy and uniformity in assessing factors that can be used to determine value of each carcass in a manner making more-detailed carcass information available to the entire lamb supply chain.
"From USDA's perspective, we are looking to develop a performance standard by which we can utilize instrument grading technology in a highly predictive way to forecast carcass attributes prior to the time of processing in a highly efficient and effective manner," explained Marty O'Connor, chief of AMS's Standards Analysis and Technology Branch. "The testing will provide an assurance that this technology can provide accurate carcass assessment information from all types of lambs marketed, before it is implemented."
The first set of data will be collected at the Superiors Farms, Denver, Colo., plant the week of Sept. 28. Two instrument technology design companies will collect data that will in turn be compared to the results of evaluations made by representatives of the USDA Meat Grading and Certification Branch. A portion of the data will be used by the design companies to develop software programs to predict lamb values. Once the software modifications are completed, USDA will test the technologies against a database of known values to determine if they meet the USDA technology performance standards.
"This is the beginning of a one-year project," continued O'Connor. "The study will collect samples on a quarterly basis to account for the seasonality differences of the lambs and to assure that we have a good representation of all lambs being marketed throughout the year."
Another advantage to this program is the value-based marketing reference that could allow producers to be compensated based on the true quality of their product. The equipment will accurately predict the amount of saleable lean meat available in a carcass and will be able to provide more information throughout the supply chain to allow better management of each segment from production to consumption.
"The American Sheep Industry Association's (ASI) American Lamb Council ranked this as a top project and has worked with AMS for two years in the lead up to this lamb carcass instrument evaluation study. This technology has the ability to give producers real-time information that could impact their bottom line," stated Tom Watson (Ore.), chair of ASI's Lamb Council. "Both the pork and cattle industries have utilized this technology. Cattle began running its first evaluation system on Sept. 1 of this year."
Colorado State University is working with USDA to assist in the collection of the samples for this study.