Strengthening Australia’s reputation for premium red meat exports


Ian Jenson and Tom Ross

Pictured: Ian Jenson, Program Manager, MLA and Associate Professor Tom Ross, TIA 

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) is helping strengthen Australia's international reputation for premium quality lamb and beef.

TIA has received $1.5 million in funding from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to develop new food safety technologies and management tools for transport temperatures for domestic and export red meat.

The project, which will run for three years, is being led by TIA Food Safety Centre Associate Professor in Food Microbiology Tom Ross.

Associate Professor Ross says the work will build on previous lab research and will be focused on turning the information into outcomes that will provide real and direct benefits for the industry.

 There are two main components of the research.

The first part is looking at the shelf-life of meat and will further develop a science-based decision-support tool that enables better definition, manipulation and management of vacuum packed beef and lamb shelf-life.

The Australian industry is internationally renowned for premium quality meat that, for beef, has a shelf life of 20 weeks and, for lamb, about 12 weeks when vacuum-packed and held at proper storage temperatures.

The new tool will further underpin and enhance this reputation and help Australian industry to make data-based decisions to ensure the meat gets to consumers in perfect condition.

Associate Professor Ross says the tool takes the guess-work out of the effects of temperature on product quality during transport to distant export markets.

"We know how long meat retains excellent quality at ideal storage temperatures, but we can now easily track meat temperature in 'real time' using data loggers. If there is a break in the system we can use the tool to work out the effect on quality of deviations from ideal storage and transport conditions." Associate Professor Ross said.

"This tool will help the industry to make informed, accurate decisions about whether the meat is still suitable to sell, or for example, if they need to reduce the use-by date and sell it sooner.

The team is using the tool to provide an advisory service for free to the industry.

A second part of the research is to optimise and apply commercially a new technology, based on earlier basic research by the group, to reduce bacterial contamination on meat carcasses.

Associate Professor Ross says the technology vastly reduces the number of microbes on foods, including potential food poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli.

"Australia has a very strong reputation for producing clean and safe beef and lamb, but some other overseas exporters do not achieve the same standards," Associate Professor Ross said.

"Unfortunately, not all export markets recognise this quality difference in meat processing practices and are now requiring that all export meat receive some form of treatment to the exterior of carcasses to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination of the meat.

"The technology we are developing will eliminate harmful bacteria without reducing the quality of the meat.

"This promises to provide a big boost to industry productivity and profitability. It will reduce the chance of bad bacteria being in meat products and also reduce reliance on expensive testing.

"We are focused on developing the technology with industry firmly in mind. This means we need to do it in a cost-effective way that complements current industry technologies and can be easily adopted by Australian industry. We have done some trials in meat processing plants already."

During the project the technology will be rolled out and tested on a full industrial scale that will help to optimise existing processes.

The team is becoming increasingly recognised as a world-leader in food safety research, teaching and training.

TIA is a joint venture between the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania.

Published on: 14 Jul 2016 12:43pm


Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture
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