A new carcase evaluation system which uses hi-tech engineering, such as 3D imaging and fat sensors, is aimed at improving returns for beef producers while at the same time making processors more efficient.

The beef industry, scientists and precision engineering companies are all set to be involved to make the new Optibeef programme, being led by service specialist, HallMark, to drive improvement following a £1.7m project.

Productivity, quality and sustainability should benefit from the accuracy provided by 3D imaging and fat sensing incorporated within the programme. This should provide a more accurate and detailed measurement of carcases and their components.

On-farm technologies are part of the deal. These will include ‘whole-life’ monitoring of individual animals, including advanced 3D cameras, novel fat sensing, automated weighing and feed intake recording. The data collected will help indicate the reasons for influencing carcase yield and drive improvements in quality and consistency.

Using this, farmers will in turn be able to make informed decisions to optimise nutrition, health and welfare, slaughter selections and genetic selections.

The lead partner in the project is HallMark services, which will work with Scotbeef, SRUC, Innovent Technology, National Physical Laboratory, Harbro, Hectare Agritech, Ritchie and Agri-EPI Centre to deliver it over the next three years.

The project has won its £1.7m funding through an industrial strategy challenge fund, as part of a package to support ‘productive and sustainable crop and ruminant agricultural systems’.

HallMark's chairman, David Peace, said: “The established, manual method of classifying carcases relies entirely on human judgement.

It is becoming increasingly challenging to recruit and train enough staff and that process can take a year.

"The development will allow us to maintain service levels to customers, with the objective of continual improvement. A dual approach embracing new technology will provide a robust way forward to meet industry challenges."

The project will also target the ability to predict yield of primal cuts – something the industry has wanted for a very long time.