THE bid to shift beef’s objective carcase measurement (OCM) juggernaut into top gear via the rollout across all plants of Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) gear created great drama and controversy throughout 2017.
The year began with producers and processors absorbing news of Meat and Livestock Australia’s plan to acquire a commercial loan on behalf of the industry to finance the $150 million one-off cost of installing DEXA gear in up to 90 registered slaughter facilities.
DEXA technology measures meat, fat and bone in a carcase scientifically, bypassing controversial human subjectivity, and is considered a major OCM step for the beef industry.
Initial mumblings about a lack of consultation with those who will house the ground-breaking technology clashed with immediate strong support from producers who saw the technology as both a way of building commercial trust and of revealing which animals are worth more to the industry as a whole.
Come March, the case for a fast rollout of DEXA gained backing via some million dollar value predictions.
A year-long independent investigation found a $417 million per year potential benefit, split equally between producer and off-farm sectors of the supply chain, was up for grabs from the full adoption of OCM.
In June, another review found more evidence was needed to convince all in the industry the technology could actually work for Australia’s beef sector.
But some processors were keen and MLA decided to try to meet early demand through an initial allocation of $10 million in co-funding, with matching contributions from participating processors and the MLA Donor Company (MDC).
MLA reported that project was over-subscribed.
The call by then was for a split between processor and producer levies to fund the rollout of DEXA.
The processing sector was adamant it would not be pressured into throwing money at the project until it was convinced the benefits outweighed the costs.
By the end of July, the red meat processing sector’s research and development arm came to the party with funds for individual plants to ‘opt-in’ on DEXA unit installations.
The next step is investigating, on a plant-per-plant basis, the return on investment. Thirty processors have show interest so far.