Meat processing advances demand better analytical methods

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

LFR's microscopical methods were used in the Newby Foods case
LFR's microscopical methods were used in the Newby Foods case

Related tags Meat processing

More sophisticated analysis is required to deal with advances in meat processing technology, according to Leatherhead Food Research (LFR).

Its comments follow a landmark High Court ruling in favour of Newby Foods, which found that meat harvested using its advanced mechanical butchery technologies could be classified as fresh meat rather than mechanically separated meat (MSM). LFR provided expert evidence in the case.

The performance of butchery machines is improving, and in some cases this enables residual meat to be harvested with little damage to the muscle structure, said LFR.

Such developments play a vital role in the food industry, enhancing cost-effectiveness, reducing food waste and safeguarding the environment which, it claimed.

UKAS accredited laboratory

Microscopy performed by LFR was pivotal to the Newby Foods. It was called on to act as an expert witness, being the UK’s only UKAS accredited laboratory for muscle fibre structure analysis to determine the quality of MSM.

LFR’s analysis demonstrated that the muscle fibre structure of chicken and pork harvested via Newby Foods’s novel process was consistent with fresh meat.

This led the judge to conclude that the meat was not MSM, enabling it to contribute to the labelled meat content of end products.

‘Properties of standard fresh meat’

“The ‘Leatherhead method’ of analysis was directly referred to by Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart in the final ruling,”​ said Newby Foods’s md Graham Bishop. “It proved beyond doubt that our meat has the properties of standard fresh meat, not MSM.”

Professor Kathy Groves, head of microscopy at LFR, who handled the Newby Foods project, said: “Our evaluation of Newby Foods’s samples involved detailed microstructural analysis.

“In all cases, the muscle fibre structures were almost completely intact, just as you would expect to see with fresh meat.

“The technique we used could enhance food manufacturers’ incoming quality inspections for products where the inclusion of mechanically butchered meat is acceptable, but MSM is not.”

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