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Science sorts grass from grain-fed beef

AMN _news_Raman Bridgette Logan

Grass-fed and grain-fed beef products could soon be differentiated using a simple forensic test, according to researchers from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

NSW DPI meat scientist, Stephanie Fowler, said a NSW DPI and Meat & Livestock Australia’s MLA Donor Company co-funded project is testing the potential of Raman spectroscopy to certify premium beef products.

“The technology, which is used in forensic chemistry to identify molecules, is particularly suited to overseas markets where adulteration issues can compromise the integrity of Australian beef,” Dr Fowler said.

“Raman technology could help maintain market access for our premium products in high-value markets.

“Consumers need to feel confident they are getting what they pay for and Raman technology, which uses a hand held laser device, could deliver the correct analysis in real-time during processing.”

Scientists have adopted Raman spectroscopy as it allows them to identify the different chemical profiles of grain and grass-fed beef, including important beta carotene and fatty-acid profiles, which vary across the two production systems.

NSW DPI researcher and Charles Sturt University post-graduate student, Bridgette Logan won a scholarship from the Australian Meat Processors Corporation to complete the three-year project.

Phase one of the project, which began in 2018, set the parameters for grain-fed and grass-fed products,” Ms Logan said.

“This year (2020) phase two has broadened the scope and sampling of beef from across Australia.

“It’s important to be able to verify grass and grain-fed beef and Raman spectroscopy offers a timely, cost-effective process.

“Current laboratory testing is costly, resource intense and is not sustainable.

“Lab tests require destruction of the meat, while Raman spectroscopy is a non-invasive, non-destructive technology, which uses a laser to interact with the chemical bonds of the product.

“The aim is to develop the technology to a point where we can trial it in the field and ascertain how rapidly the technology can be delivered and adopted.”

The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, an alliance between Charles Sturt University and NSW DPI, is sponsoring Ms Logan’s doctoral studies.