With growing consumer interest in leaner meat, meat packers have looked for technology that efficiently shows how much lean meat or fat is in a commercial cut. That technology may be closer than ever, based on USDA’s Animal Research Service animal scientist Alva Mitchell's work with dual x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA.

In lab tests, DXA images accurately show the composition of pork carcasses. This procedure, noninvasive and quick, is based on using x-rays of differing energy levels to scan for soft tissue of differing densities, according to Mitchell, at the ARS Growth Biology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.

The DXA instruments that Mitchell used scans carcass cross-sections at a speed of 7.68 centimeters per second, compared to the processing chain speed of 16.6 centimeters per second. The next step is to find a packing plant to test the technology at commercial speeds.

Using DXA would allow packers to know the true value of the meat without the fat.

Read more about this research in the January issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Agricultural Research Service