Commercial trials of a new model designed to more accurately predict the shelf-life of red meat and ultimately reduce waste have shown promising results in a domestic supply chain.
Meat & Livestock Australia and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture have developed the new shelf-life prediction tool for beef and lamb, and a retail trial of the model is validating its accuracy.
Federal Government data shows food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy about $20billion each year, with consumers throwing away about 3.1million tonnes of edible food a year.
The MLA trial suggested a 10 per cent reduction in red meat waste was possible as a result of improving cold chain control and accuracy of shelf-life prediction.
MLA market access science and technology program manager Ian Jenson said the model took a conservative approach to shelf-life and preliminary results from the trial showed the tool was highly accurate.
‘‘Data analysis for the first trial — shelf-life of vacuum-packaged rump roast — has been analysed and results show the product had a much longer shelf-life than what is currently perceived,’’ Dr Jenson said.
‘‘The trial saw vacuum-packed beef rump roasts processed and pass through the supply chain under 39 different pathways, with varying storage designations, storage times and storage temperatures.’’
The time-to-temperature ratio was recorded for each pathway along with bacteria testing and a range of other assessments, including raw and cooked appearance, colour, smell and flavour.
The shelf-life observed in this trial matched the prediction by the beef shelf-life model, with the model accurately predicting the end or near-end of shelf-life.
‘‘There was only one occasion when the model predicted the end of shelf-life while the product was still acceptable to consumers,’’ Dr Jenson said.
The model was developed by TIA researchers at the University of Tasmania as part of their role as the MLA Principal Research Organisation for Microbial Ecology and Physiology.
Dr Jenson said the model not only predicted shelf-life but could subsequently be used to build confidence in the shelf-life of products, simplify the supply chain and provide a range of other benefits.
‘‘Those benefits include better control over product, which leads to less product markdown in stores,’’ he said.
‘‘For retailers, it means better stock control and management.
‘‘It also supports greater confidence and more agile science-based decision making about processes, delivery issues, and management of unforeseen breakdowns as they relate to product shelf-life.
‘‘In turn, better management systems will give customers increased confidence in product quality and protect the environment by reducing waste.’’