Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is familiar to most of us as a hospital technique used for looking at the human body in finer detail than a Computerised Tomography (CT) scan. If you’ve been keeping up with our forays into meaty tech then you’ll agree this is the natural progression of scanning technology from other industries making it’s way into the meat industry. Meat and Livestock Australia have been using x-ray technology and augmented reality to assess livestock and grade carcases, and now researchers in Spain have applied MRI scanners to assess the quality of ham and pork loins.
Scientists from the University of Extramadura, led by Trinidad Perez-Palacios PhD., published their research paper in the Journal of Food Engineering and the methodology has been released to the meat industry so people can implement the idea into their own processes. Perez-Palacios believes it is only a matter of time before this is routinely used in the meat industry to ensure consistent standards and product specifications.
Used to look at Iberico ham and cured loins, the technology can show the salt has diffused through the product and the technology has informed a method for detecting moisture, colour and fat distribution. Using various parameters as a reference point, the data taken from each ham is compared with an example that is known to be of a high quality, and this comparison tells us whether the ham is a premium product, whether it needs longer curing, and how it will taste.
This sort of quality control can help reduce waste and ensure consistency across a product, essential for charcutiers who stake their reputation on the quality of their products.