Looking at diagnostic and processing tools for the meat industry at Carne Technologies
Scientist and general manager of Carne Technologies Nicola Simmons has spent her career in NZ working on technology helping processors and farmers get the best out of the meat they produce.
Nicola started her career in the meat industry by joining the family butchery business in London. She then went on to complete an MSc and PhD in meat science at Bristol University. Nicola held senior positions at both the Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand (MIRINZ) and then the Crown Research Institute AgResearch.
Carne Technologies was founded in 2005 initially offering support in meat processing product handling. It develops, manufactures and sells electrical processing technologies, and quality measurement systems, as well as technical support tools. These tools are used in meat processing plants, cold stores, retail cutting and packing plants, and in supermarkets.
The company does the preliminary testing and screening work for the Steak of Origin – testing hundreds of samples for tenderness, juiciness, marbling, colour and pH.
Nicola and some of her colleagues were part of the Meat Industry Research Institute that pioneering electrical stimulation of lamb and beef carcasses to enhance tenderness.
Nicola was originally heavily involved in both the day-to-day product development and the commercial projects. These days she is focusing more on the 'business' end of the company.
Carne Technologies looks after a global clientele with customers from Europe, North, Central and South America, China and South Africa. The company offers a range of tools and services to help processors optimize the chilling rate and pH to make sure the meat is top quality for retailers.
The company uses computer modelling along with other measuring gear – and in plant training to help processors get the best results. They also have set up eating quality programmes for processors and their customers.
Carne Technologies produces a stun monitor, that monitors and logs electrical stuns in real time. It ensures compliance with industry standards but it also picks up faults in the performance of the equipment. All stun information can be remotely accessed from a desk in real time, and historical stun records can be reviewed and analysed.
They have also developed a high frequency electric stun system which doesn’t affect meat quality. The system uses a programmable waveform that can be applied to most species – and is optimised for effective stunning and minimal quality problems.
Conventional head-only stunning can cause problems for operators who want to allow death by bleeding. The head-only stunning can cause violent limb movements that are dangerous for workers. The solution was to apply low voltage currents - but this sometimes caused meat quality problems.
On top of these challenges some processing plants wanted faster throughput – resulting in conditions that weren’t conducive to superior meat quality. Carne Technologies has come up with a system that modifies the electrical currents to stimulate different body tissues independently. Nicola says both cold and over stimulation with electrical currents can cause toughness. By using the right amount of stimulation for each carcass aging can be accelerated with no risk.
The team has also developed a tool for accelerated bleeding and a Tender-o-Meter - a tool that measures cooked meat tenderness.
Nicola says that predicting a tasty, juicy and tender piece of steak is still a big challenge. She says cattle are so variable and so many factors go into the final eating experience. And while all these technologies are assisting the processor, the final judge of their success is the consumer.
Silver Fern Farms conducted a recent survey of over 3,000 consumers in USA and NZ. It reported that many key traits for lamb have no impact on eating quality. The report – called Lamb Eating Quality – says factors such as breed, gender, pasture, growth rates, marbling and fat cover had little impact on the how tasty and tender the meat was. The report says however that the right cut and correct aging were the main keys to a good eating experience.