Workers in meat-processing plants may soon be able to assess the qualities of cuts of meat, just by subjecting them to light. Researchers from Montreal’s McGill University, working with Agriculture Canada and the Canadian pork industry, have developed a spectroscopic tool that evaluates the color, texture and exudation (water release) of pork cuts. It's hoped that the technology will improve quality control, optimize production and allow for exports that are better sorted for their target markets.

The system analyzes the wavelengths of visible and near-infrared light reflected by pork cuts. “The technique enables production workers to conduct objective and scientific analysis of the meat very quickly on the production line,” said Dr. Michael Ngadi, of McGill’s Department of Bioresource Engineering.

The conventional laboratory method of assessing pork quality requires the destruction of the meat samples.

Because pork is currently graded into five quality classes according to combinations of color, texture and exudation, those are the characteristics that the McGill system was designed to assess. In the testing of the system, 60 cuts of various classes of pork were introduced, and 79 percent of those were accurately identified.

The researchers are also looking into ways in which the system could evaluate other meat qualities, such as marbling and fat content. Ngadi stated that they are now looking for business partners, so the system can be commercialized and brought into use.