Shelf-life prediction tool aims to reduce food waste

Shelf-life prediction tool aims to reduce food waste

A new model has been designed to more accurately predict the shelf-life of red meat with the intention of reducing wastage has shown promising results during a commercial trial in a domestic supply chain.

The shelf-life prediction tool for beef and lamb was developed by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA). Now, a retail trial of the model is validating its accuracy.

Data from the Australian Government shows that, each year, food waste costs the Australian economy some $20 billion. Moreover, Australian consumers throw around 3.1 million tonnes of edible food every year.

The MLA trial has suggested that a 10% reduction in red meat waste is possible as a result of improving cold chain control and accuracy of shelf-life prediction.

Dr Ian Jenson, MLA Program Manager – Market Access Science and Technology, said the model takes a conservative approach to shelf-life and preliminary results from the trial show the tool is highly accurate.

“Three trials, funded through the MLA Donor Company, involving three product types have recently been completed. Data analysis for the first trial – shelf-life of vacuum packaged rump roast – has been analysed and results show the product had a much longer shelf-life than what is currently perceived,” he said.

“The trial saw vacuum-packed beef rump roasts processed and pass through the supply chain under 39 different pathways, with varying storage designations, storage times and storage temperatures.

“The time:temperature data was recorded for each pathway along with bacteria testing and a range of other assessments including raw and cooked appearance, colour, smell and flavour.

“The shelf-life observed in this trial matched what was predicted by the beef shelf-life model. Further, the model accurately predicted the end or near end of shelf-life. There was only one occasion when the model predicted the end of shelf-life while product was still acceptable to consumers.”

Principal Research Organisation leader Associate Professor Tom Ross said detailed, long-term laboratory studies were undertaken and the results then developed into simple computer software.

“It’s great to be able to apply laboratory studies to benefit users in the real world, and to see the model being confirmed as reliable,” Associate Professor Ross said.