QMEAT and the meat sector


In EU, the most consumed processed meat products come from pig meat. The industry is dominated by many family owned companies (94% SMEs) running relative small productions and involving traditional processes. These companies produce a wide variety of traditional quality pig meat products like cured and cooked ham, dry and fermented sausages, etc. Several SMEs export products outside the EU. However, these EU SMEs are facing increased global competition from large international companies which are more productive and efficient and have superior marketing organisations. Moreover, due to the global crisis, there is a continuous reduction in consumer demand for premium meat and traditional quality products that is the core business for most European sector SMEs.


In the EU15 alone the sector concentrates a total of 39,165 SME companies working in the manufacture of processed meat products and roughly 45,000 SMEs in the EU25, employing 1 million workers.


Most of the SMEs in EU, still base product quality controls on human assessment or in random periodic analysis. This way of operation is not efficient and produces significant variability in the final quality of the product and causes unsatisfactory productivity and limited industrial yield. A technological advance is necessary to overcome the lack of efficient technology to classify and sort pig meat by its quality prior processing.


SMEs will be more competitive by selecting higher quality cuts for those processes that generate more added-value while inferior quality meats must be separated and treated by using artificial ingredients to get an acceptable and consistent final quality. The sorting of meat prior processing lets the producer 1) increase the industrial yield, 2) obtain a more uniform product quality and 3) identify meat producers (slaughterhouses and wholesalers) that provide inferior quality meats.


The overall profit losses for the EU meat processing industry due to the inadequate processing of pig meat is estimated to be over €5.1 billion by year.


QMEAT addresses the following fundamental scientific objectives:

  • To investigate the use of innovative characterisation technologies for assessing the technological quality of meat, and its applicability to industrial operation
  • To further the knowledge of the electrical and optical properties of raw pig meat
  • To establish correlation models between the electrical and optical properties of pig meat and intrinsic meat quality parameters (Water Holding Capacity and colour)


Industrial/Economic Objectives:


  • To achieve a manufacturing target cost for a complete QMEAT system below €30k.
  • To optimise production by increasing industrial yield and producing more high quality products. (It is expected on average an increase in the benefits of about €700 per tonne of processed product.)
  • To assist slaughterhouses to know their real incidence of poor quality meats and to determine the cause/s of the problem. By the use of QMEAT it is expected to reduce the incidence of PSE meats from 15% to 5%, RSE meat from 45% to 15% and DFD meat from 5% to 1 %.

The inclusion of QMEAT system will allow objective, non-contact and automatic classification of all meat pieces. (The yearly cost of manual analysis is estimated to be in the range of €20-25/Tm, including the cost of probes and operator time). The cost of QMEAT analysis will be 1.1€/Tm assuming a lifetime of the machine of 10 years.


Societal Objectives


  • To achieve customer and consumer satisfaction and confidence by the commercialisation of consistent quality products.
  • Increase of direct employment in QMEAT manufacture, installation and maintenance services by 150 jobs initially. Additionally new job opportunities will be created, especially for younger people in rural areas for tasks where previously years of experience were required.
  • Improving the working conditions of the employees by the use of an automatic classification system.