Does extensive farming result in better meat quality?
Wageningen University & Research coordinates the European mEATquality project. Hans Spoolder, Senior Animal Welfare scientist at WUR, is the coordinator. The project is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, which features a large number of research projects. The topic which they have in common is how to get the very best meat quality on the consumer’s plate. In addition to other European universities, leading meat quality laboratories, supermarkets, breeding companies and processors, Marel is involved in mEATquality as a supplier of equipment and technology. On behalf of Marel, R&D Director Johan Meulendijks is a member of the General Assessment Assembly.
Farming effects on meat quality
Is it justified to expect better quality meat when the animals reared have benefited from greater animal welfare? When they have more square meters at their disposal? When they have free access to food? When they can roam freely? The mEATquality research team will busy itself with this subject by collecting relevant data from the field. The researchers will gather information on conventional, biological and free-range farms, and combine this data with consumer expectations. The team will also conduct controlled experiments and develop assessment technology for determining quality automatically. Finally, full traceability of the meat’s origin will also be a goal.
Hans Spoolder says: “We want to find out whether extensive and intensive farming methods of pigs and chickens result in different meat tastes. Does it affect the taste when animals are fed differently or when they can walk around freely?” Johan Meulendijks explains, “Marel’s role in the project will be crucial, because we can measure a lot of parameters once the chicken have arrived at the processing plant. I’m thinking particularly of characteristics, which directly or indirectly impact meat quality and that keep on coming back at all stages in the process. Water binding capacity is a good example. Eventually, we expect to be able to associate the way the chicken has been raised with the consumer’s experience of juicy, tasty meat without fatty overtones.”
What will the research bring Marel and its customers?
One of the research questions is: How to trace back meat quality to animal feed? Marel will take the lead here using Innova software and in-line sensor technology. Johan Meulendijks says, “Marel has the in-line sensor technology available to evaluate how different ways of farming affect meat quality. We can measure a great number of product characteristics using our monitoring technologies. We can even see, for example, from a fillet’s color whether the broiler has been fed with grain or corn. These findings will certainly be of interest to retail customers such as supermarket chains, as they allow for more precise product specifications and a more detailed segmentation of the product portfolio.”
For more information, visit meatquality.eu.