DEXA technology is currently blazing a trail for meat inspection and has proved itself to be indispensable for any meat processor keen to improve their bottom line and become a key player in the global meat industry. But what exactly is DEXA and what applications is it best suited to?
This article describes DEXA, how it works and explores the most common meat applications it can be used for in today’s meat industry.
If you would like to learn more about DEXA technology for meat, download our white paper.
1. What is DEXA & how does it work?
DEXA is an acronym for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry, an enhanced form of x-ray inspection. It’s been utilized in the medical industry for many years for bone density scanning and is typically used to diagnose osteoporosis and other conditions causing bone loss, as well as measure body composition.
Although DEXA shares some similarities with regular x-ray inspection it also diverges from traditional x-ray. The technology uses two specific x-ray energies – a high energy and a low energy – to measure the amount of x-rays that are absorbed by the body as it passes through the system. When an x-ray beam is directed at the subject, some of the energies are absorbed while some pass through it. What gets absorbed and what passes through depends on the composition.
2. The Meat Industry & DEXA
Fat, bone and lean tissue absorb high energy and low energy x-rays differently. The ratio of energy absorbed at high energy to the energy absorbed at a low energy can be used to differentiate between these tissues and enables the fat measurement of meat.
Due to tight profit margins, the meat industry is increasingly realizing DEXA’s potential as a non-invasive and highly-accurate inline method of measuring the chemical lean (CL) or fat content of meat trimmings and ground meat.
As the only method that can accurately inspect 100 percent of throughput in real-time, DEXA offers meat processors several advantages over other fat analysis methods, such as the Soxhlet method, the Anyl-Ray, the CEM ProFat Analyzer, and NIR and NIT Spectroscopy. The main advantage being that DEXA is not limited to boneless, ground meat, unlike other fat measurement methods. The technology is capable of inspecting all uncooked meat, whether fresh or frozen, bulk, blended, or packaged in cartons, providing it’s devoid of other ingredients. In addition, DEXA is not affected by freeze/thaw plant conditions or meat conductivity.
Download our white paper, “Can you Guarantee Your Chemical Lean Values?“, to learn more.
3. Typical Applications for DEXA
Because of this versatility, the three most typical DEXA applications are on bulk meat, bulk meat blend control and meat cartons.
Bulk Meat “Point of Lean”
By determining the CL content of bulk meat (or mixtures of loose bulk and frozen blocks), DEXA systems allow meat processors to produce a batch of meat with a measured weight and fat content, and are capable of inspecting line speeds in excess of 60 US tons/hr at product depths up to seven inches.
Due to the intrinsic errors and limitations of manual methods for fat analysis and estimation, packers traditionally either risk getting claimed for excessive fat, or elect to ‘over correct’ combos to ensure shipped product meets fat specifications. The knock-on effect is that they end up shipping what amounts to a give-away of ‘lean product’ to customers, which may be equivalent to four percent or more.
In “point of lean” applications, DEXA meat inspection enables packers to accurately measure CL in their batches, dramatically reducing or eliminating fat claiming risk or give-away, thereby improving production yield. In addition, the technology allows meat processors to control supplies by assessing the fat content of incoming loads.
Bulk Meat Blend Control
By enabling accurate control of two or more upstream infeeds of bulk meat trim with different fat/lean levels, DEXA systems allow meat processors to create batches of meat with a specific fat content at a target weight. This means processors can achieve blending targets with very high accuracy and reduces inconsistencies in recipe operations.
If the fat content starts getting too high or low in relation to a pre-defined recipe, for example, it can be adjusted by selecting pre-classified trimmings. Not only does this enable meat processors to obtain more precise batches, it also enhances their fat management capabilities by allowing them to make optimal use of lean and fat trim.
Furthermore, by automating the blending process and allowing precise recipe control, DEXA technology for meat inspection reduces rework, increases effective throughput and can help to eliminate (or defend against) fat claims from customers.
Watch our webinar to learn “What are the Benefits of Fat Analysis to Meat Processors?”
By measuring the fat content of bulk meat packaged in cartons, DEXA technology can help meat processors achieve combo targets without sorting or sampling, and stop selling combos undervalue.
Unlike the traditional fat measurement techniques, DEXA inspects 100 percent of every carton, and systems are available which are capable of analyzing up to 60lb (28kg) cartons for CL value at line speeds in excess of 30 cartons per minute or 120 feet per minute (FPM).
By identifying the fat content of each carton in real time, DEXA systems for meat inspection afford meat processors a high degree of flexibility in fat management, enabling them to sell cartons on a point of lean basis, mix and match cartons to achieve a target aggregate CL over a group of boxes or rework individual cartons to adjust CL. Some DEXA systems also support “dynamic switching” that allows “on the fly” switching of inspection parameters to optimize inspection to specific carton contents, like bone-in vs. boneless trimmings.