Australia’s red meat industry is set to benefit from the establishment of the world’s first beef boning automation research and development room, as the industry looks to reduce processing costs and increase boning room yield efficiency.

MLA Donor Company (MDC) will invest up to $32.4 million over five years to enable Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) in collaboration with beef processor, Teys Australia, and solution providers to develop beef boning automation technology.

Leveraging MLA’s industry leadership on lamb boning automation, known as LEAP, the move towards beef boning automation will see the R&D room developed, enabled by CT and DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) objective carcase measurement technology and referred to as Leap4Beef.

The program will not utilise any producer or processor levies, with Teys Australia co-funding the beef boning automation R&D room at its facility in Rockhampton, Queensland, with matching R&D contributions to come from the federal government.

MLA Managing Director Jason Strong said with Australia reportedly having one of the world’s most expensive processing sectors, automating beef boning would reduce per head operating costs for the benefit of the entire Australian industry.

“Maximising the value of carcasses through accurate cutting along with the increase in productivity through continuous flow in the boning room is vital to the sustainability of the Australian red meat industry,” Mr Strong said.

“Beyond movement in livestock prices, the single biggest impact on processing efficiency is the accurate segmentation and de-boning of carcasses into the highest primal value possible. It’s where the most significant improvements in processing industry efficiency can be made.

“Beef boning automation has been estimated to deliver at least a $30 per head benefit, with an estimated 40% of this benefit to return to producers.

“The developments will also provide a platform for other value adding outcomes, such as increasing producer feedback through DEXA and CT installations.

“We are seeing the benefits of lamb boning automation in Australian processing plants, with carcass values increasing by more than $6/head. More than 40% of large processing throughput now uses the technology, and pending installations will raise this to 71% of throughput.”

“MLA has conceptualised a revolutionary, global and scalable design for beef boning automation, and with industry partners, it will now make this innovation, Leap4Beef, a reality.”

Mr Strong said MLA had undertaken industry consultation with more than 20 processors on beef boning automation, and will continue to work with other Australian processors and hold regular updates.

“The beef boning automation R&D room will be available for any solution provider to develop MLA/Teys approved initiatives and will be open for Australian processors to visit to see the developments and evolution of the technology,” Mr Strong said.

Mr Strong said as well as productivity benefits, boning automation offers improved workplace health and safety benefits.

Teys Australia welcomed the investment by MLA in the development of automation solutions for beef boning and looks forward to getting to work to deliver viable solutions.

Teys Chief Value Chain Officer, Tom Maguire, said: “Beef processing is one of Australia’s largest manufacturing industries employing thousands of Australians in rural and regional communities and this type of investment will help us secure its future for the long-term.”

“Around the world, manufacturing has shown that it can maintain a competitive advantage provided it adopts the latest technologies and embraces the digital economy. There is no reason that the beef processing industry cannot be part of this,” Mr Maguire said.

Mr Maguire said Teys is committed to the project because Australian cattle producers produce some of the best product in the world, and a modern, efficient and productive processing system can ensure that position is maintained in the future.

“Automation of critical beef cutting lines has the potential to greatly improve consistency and quality of product offered to customers whilst improving the working conditions in our plants,” Mr Maguire said.

“While we have much work to do to deliver an outcome, we are committed to getting the best and brightest minds to work with us on the project and getting the job done.”