Marel joins European mEATquality research project

Researching the correlation between extensive farming and meat quality

Marel Spectra Poultry

Marel is a major participant in the European mEATquality research project. This project is coordinated by Wageningen University & Research, within the framework of the European Horizon 2020 program. By collecting data from farm to fork, mEATquality will try to find the correlation between animal welfare on the farm and consumer behavior regarding meat quality. The mEATquality project is expected to develop innovative solutions that meet social demands, environmental concerns and economic needs on the farm and in the chain.

19 and 20 January 2022, the mEATquality research project officially kicked off. It has been awarded €6.5 million of EU funding to research the links between animal welfare and meat quality. It is part of a batch of projects that make up the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, all about how to get better meat quality on the consumer’s plate. Its end date is set for September 2025.

Farming effects on meat quality

Consumers expect high-quality meat from animals reared on farms providing good animal welfare. Is this expectation justified? The mEATquality project will examine the effects of extensive husbandry on the quality of poultry meat and pork. It does so by collecting data on all kinds of farms, conventional, organic and free-range, and conduct consumer expectation studies and controlled experiments. The researchers will also develop techniques for automated quality assessment and try to establish whether the origin of the meat can be fully traced. In addition, they will evaluate advanced farming practices against sustainability aspects. Pigs and poultry are chosen as objects of study, as they are farmed animals reared both in intensive and extensive systems.

Meatquality Marel Logo

Sustainability

The research will also evaluate advanced farming practices against sustainability aspects: animal welfare, environmental impact and economic viability. Animal protein food production systems need a transition towards optimal and renewable use of resources. Moreover, sustainable production and processing systems are required that can increase food production while minimizing inputs, waste, environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions.

Participants

The mEATquality project is coordinated by Wageningen University & Research (WUR). They joined forces with other European universities and academic partners (including five of Europe’s leading meat quality laboratories), retailer Carrefour and poultry breeder Hubbard. Marel participates as an equipment manufacturer to supply the technology needed. Marel Research Director Johan Meulendijks has a seat in the General Assembly. Finally, Plukon, Vion and Jumbo support and sponsor the project. Collectively these partners span the chain from farm to fork.

Marel’s role is about monitoring the effects of husbandry on the meat quality by using inline monitoring technology.

Johan Meulendijks

Johan Meulendijks
Marel Research Director

Wageningen

Senior Animal Welfare scientist Hans Spoolder at Wageningen Livestock Research is the project coordinator of the mEATquality project. He is the director of the EU Animal Welfare Reference Centre (EURCAW-Pigs) and is a member of the Animal Health and Welfare panel of EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) that advises the European Committee about animal welfare. Hans Spoolder says: “We want to know whether the taste of meat from pigs and chickens in extensive livestock systems differs from the meat taste from intensive livestock systems, for example because the animals can move around more or are given different feed.”

Objective

The mEATquality project is about linking consumer behavior to the method of farming. It involves husbandry factors such as: how many square meters has each chicken? How accessible is the food? Is the farm closed or free-range? Johan Meulendijks explains, “When the animals arrive at the processing plant, a number of product parameters can be measured. These can be parameters related to meat quality, such as water binding capacity or other characteristics that are connected throughout the entire process. Ultimately, we can establish a correlation between the husbandry factors and the consumption quality experienced by the consumer. This can be associated with the juiciness of the meat or the lack of fatty edges.”

IRIS FI Camera

What is Marel’s role?

Marel will be in the lead when it comes to using inline sensor technology and Innova software to determine what level of meat quality comes to the processing plant and make it traceable back to the animal feed. Johan Meulendijks continues, “Marel’s role is about monitoring the effects of husbandry on the meat quality by using inline monitoring technology. Our existent sensor technologies can perform numerous measurements on the products, either the stunned chicken or the fillets further downstream. Such measurements can define husbandry factors. Did the broiler only eat grain? Or was it corn-fed? This will be noticeable in the fillet’s color. These are interesting topics for our industry, especially the retail market, because it allows for narrower product specifications. So the results of this research can definitely be of use for our customers.”


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