Carcass Evaluation

An automated evaluation system for determining fat depth and lean depth from longitudinal scans on freshly slaughtered and split pork carcasses was developed.[9] A 17.2-cm transducer mounted in a frame with a wedge-shaped standoff guide was used for longitudinally scanning pork carcasses from the tenth to last ribs two inches off and parallel to the backline. The 4°, wedge-shaped standoff guide prevented harmonic or ghost images that would have resulted in erroneous readings. The operator held the counterbalanced transducer in one hand while steadying the carcass with the other hand to ensure that the ultrasound beam from the transducer was correctly oriented (i.e., perpendicular to the desired tissue interfaces) to produce consistent, quality images. The automated depth measurements of fat and lean provided values as accurate for predicting percent carcass lean as careful manual measurements. These automated measurements were made at line speeds of 1200 carcasses per hour. This technology has been adopted and used in multiple commercial plants for more than 5 years. A similar version of this technology is being used by most of the major swine breeding companies in the world for the selection of breeding stock.

As the performance of the ultrasonic equipment has improved in recent years, its use for determining marbling in the live animal has been developed utilizing sophisticated computers and software. Now it is common to see a complete portable system ultrasonic scanner, transducer, laptop computer, and a few accessories in use chuteside to evaluate live animals extensively. Marbling or intramuscular fat is the most important factor associated with beef carcass grade, and it is associated with juiciness, flavor, and tenderness of the meat when consumed by the consumer. Quality is also receiving more attention in pork and lamb. The advent of real-time ultrasound provided a method of producing speckle patterns, which was subjectively evaluated by trained ultrasound operators. More recently, software programs have been devel-oped[10] that provide automated image grabbing and evaluation for marbling.

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