Date Full Report Received02/15/2017
Date Abstract Report Received02/15/2017
InvestigationInstitution: ARS, MARC, USDA
Primary Investigator: Dr. Steven Shackelford Ph.D.
Co-Investigators: D.A. King, T. R. Wheeler
Funded ByNational Pork Board
The VQG pork loin grading camera was developed jointly by USDA-ARS researchers at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in collaboration with E+V, a company that develops and markets image analysis-based systems for the meat, poultry, and livestock industries. The VQG is applied to the ventral side of boneless pork loins to evaluate tenderness, lean color, intramuscular fat percentage, and water-holding capacity of longissimus muscle. In commercial application, this technology could be applied to loins at the end of the loin boning and trimming process to determine which loins qualify for a specific brand. However, it is likely that some processors will use this technology immediately after loin boning to facilitate real-time decision making in regards to how each loin should be trimmed to meet the needs of diverse markets. The objective of this study was to develop an accurate method to predict/evaluate meat quality traits of pork loins under industrial conditions. For this project, testing occurred on 7 production days in 6 large-scale commercial packing plants. At or near the end of the loin boning and trimming line, each test loin (n = 1,400; 7 days × 200/day) was evaluated with the VQG and serially-numbered for data collection. Most test loins were strap-off loins, which typically would have been destined for domestic markets. But, 22% of test loins were strap-on loins, which typically would have been destined for export markets. While it was not ideal to sample loins trimmed to different specifications, this was necessary to sample ample variation in lean color and marbling. Objective color and subjective color, marbling, and firmness were evaluated on the ventral side of each loin. Using a portable pH meter equipped with a stab electrode, longissimus pH was determined near both the posterior and anterior ends of the loin. Boneless loins were vacuum packaged, transported to USMARC and aged. At 14 d postmortem, loins were unpackaged and weighed for determination of purge loss. Chops were obtained from the loins and objective and subjective assessments were made on chops that were bloomed 3 h. Tenderness was assessed as slice shear force.
This technology provides the pork industry with a tool to evaluate meat quality characteristics of boneless loins at commercial processing speeds. This could be used to determine which loins qualify for a specific brand or to facilitate real-time decision making in regards to how each loin should be trimmed to meet the needs of diverse markets. The software has been designed with flexible classification settings to allow industry professionals the ability to easily tailor the system to maximize value. Values can be set to assign loins to the proposed NPB grading system. Due to a high level of interest in the VQG, trial and permanent installations will occur at packing plants owned by multiple companies in the coming months. This tool will likely be used to facilitate genetic selection for pork quality.