Optimisation of pork production by connecting the entire production chain

Meat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Producing pork meat is, however, not comparable with producing, a cookie, bread, cheese or a bottle of beer. Most food products are produced by putting ingredients together and processing them. Producing pork starts with taking a carcass apart and dividing it into different parts and pieces for either fresh or further processed meat production.

In a pig processing plant, it is more and more important to get the right part with the right quality to the right customer. Firm and pink loins for Japan, fat and marbled hams for dry curing in Southern Europe, ribs for the USA, trimmings for sausage production, fat bellies for South Korea, white pig heads for China, juicy pork chops for retail and so on. For each carcass in a processing plant, those final dissection decisions have to be made which means a lot of money can be either be won or lost. New modern ultrasound technology enables meat companies to get a better prediction of the carcass composition. These technologies create thousands of data points per carcass that are transformed into relevant data by using company specific algorithms. Furthermore, in-line measurements of meat quality characteristics are developed to get the optimal product quality to the right consumer.

Besides meat quality characteristics, there is also other information gathered for each pig in the production chain. These include health characteristics, boar taint detection or full stomachs while an increasing amount of information is becoming available for each product. Vion has developed a system called FarmingNet to directly connect with the pig farmers. Through this system pig farmers can plan the transport and delivery of their pigs to the processing plant. Some basic information like feed company and genetics could be made available. As soon as the pigs are processed, the farmers receive the health data back about the pigs they delivered. Subsequently, the farmers can use these data to benchmark themselves against the database average.

The carcass composition and meat quality is mostly determined by the on-farm conditions such as genetics, feed composition, type of feeding, housing system, health or time of feed withdrawal before transport to the processing plant. In the future, Vion aims to make an even better connection between farm and slaughterhouse data. Real time sharing of these data will make it easier to plan carcass dissection decisions as well as sales and thus optimise the entire pork production chain. Within the IoF2020 project Vion is participating in a small case study together with ILVO research, where we try to connect farm and boar taint detection data to reduce the percentage of tainted carcasses. In a recently started EU project called CYBELE, we will try to expand this knowledge by connecting other data between the farmer and the processing plant to improve animal welfare, health and ultimately product quality.

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Dr. Ronald Klont

Director Research & Development at Vion Food

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