Chicken meat that has been removed from the bones by a machine must be labelled as ‘mechanically deboned’ under EU rules. However, this label pushes down the price of meat, holding back the competitiveness of the sector.
EU-funded project MEAQUAS aimed to boost the competitiveness of chicken meat produced in the EU with innovative tools to assess the quality of mechanically deboned meat. This will allow high quality mechanically deboned meat produced in the EU to be identified and compared to lower quality mechanically deboned meat which is often imported from outside the EU.
Project scientists have developed a new method to automatically analyse and grade the meat using novel staining markers that highlight muscular structures. The software then uses image processing algorithms to quantify the degree of degradation in the meat.
MEAQUAS’ technology quantifies the loss of structural integrity in the chicken meat, a key indicator of the meat’s quality and a way of proving that mechanically deboned meat is of the same quality as hand-removed meat.
MEAQUAS hopes that regulatory bodies will define criteria for different meat qualities using the results of the project’s measuring technology. Ultimately, quality screening will enable high quality mechanically deboned meat to be labelled simply as ‘chicken meat’, improving its market value.