Practical fat analysis from mackerel to meat trimmings

Fat has always been a key parameter when processing meat and fish. Recent developments in analytical technology are now providing a wealth of opportunity for practical fat analysis methods. Find some inspiration here.


The ability to understand the fat content is now more important than ever in meeting increasing demands for sustainable and consistently high-quality products while also turning a profit in today’s tight margin meat and fish processing business environment. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of practical fat analysis: sorting meat trimmings and checking fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel.


How to make the most of meat trimmings

Another batch of meat trimmings arrives for sorting, but how many sausages or burgers can we make from them? 


Answering this question can be a challenge when the fat characteristics of meat trimmings is notoriously variable from supplier-to-supplier, from batch-to-batch and even from tray-to-tray. Without a clear picture of entire batches of trimmings, lean meat may be given away to ensure that fat targets are always met. Alternatively, if quality controllers have a precise picture of fat content, production can be pushed closer to fat/lean targets, ensuring consistent quality, more profit and that the very best use is made of each individual batch. 


From butcher’s eye to X-ray
The fat content in meat trimming has traditionally been measured by periodic tests with “butcher’s eye” or by chemical analysis methods. However, such methods do not offer satisfactory accuracy for trim product and process control. 


In-line analysis of entire batches of trimmings based on X-ray analysis helps to optimise the sales value as proven through effective use by hundreds of meat producers around the world. The advantages include less lean meat giveaway in each carton and/or pallet/combo, reduced risk of fat fines/fat claims and an automatic record (fat, weight and Foreign Object Detection) of cartons on a pallet or combos for use in documentation and tracking.


Instruments such as the MeatMaster II analyser test trimmings that are passed through the instrument on a conveyor. The result data can be used for manual or automatic batch assembly as in this case story from Danish Crown.







Infrared spots mackerel fraud

Traditional analytical methods for fish quality analysis include various physicochemical, textural, sensory, and electrical methods. Despite the importance of these standard methods, they are expensive and time-consuming and susceptible to variation. Analytical solutions based on near infrared (NIR) have therefore become popular due to speed of analysis and minimal sample preparation. Multiple parameters including moisture, fat, oils, salt, pH and more can be delivered within half a minute making NIR a versatile solution for different application areas from laboratories seeking a fast turnaround time, to analysis directly in the processing environment.

Quick tests with NIR add value when processing oily fish types such as Salmon, Herring and Mackerel. For instance, Mackerel have the highest fat content in spring and early summer and the price is higher at this time of year. However, some fishermen have been known to store the fish caught at other times for sale during the high season. A test for fat percentage with a rapid NIR analytical solution will soon show if the fat quality of the load matches the price.


Learn more about the latest NIR solutions for fish



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