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Title:
TRACKING MEAT FROM SOURCE TO CUSTOMER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/181214
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention provides a method to replace the use of bar code stickers on cuts of meat which reads the transponder attached to the head of the carcass and converts the identification data to a bar code which can then be printed by inkjet or laser printer onto the portions cut from the carcass. This avoids loss of the stickers. The system is applicable to bovine, ovine, porcine and poultry carcasses prior to the carcase being cut into portions and includes Identity codes applicable to each carcase clamping means to secure the carcase optical scanning means to obtain data related to an image of the 3 dimensional surface of the carcase a processor programmed to receive said data and to create an image of the surface of the carcase with the locations of identity codes onto the surface a laser or ink jet printing device programmed by said processor to mark the surface of said carcase in a plurality of locations with said identity code. This system may be used in proving provenance of a cut of meat by way of using a code having indicia or symbols to identify the farm, the country of the farm the abattoir and its country as well as an indication of the breed and identity of the individual animal and other data such as mode of production ( eg lot fed, organic etc) and the date of slaughter. The code is preferably assigned to the animal at the slaughter house and may use data from the animals ear tag or other identity. This code is then printed onto to the carcase at as many positions as there are cuts or portions of the carcase. This ensures that when a portion is purchased at a supermarket the code will be on the portion and its provenance can be deciphered.

Inventors:
PURTON, William Westmore (3 Davenport Street, Robe, South Australia 5276, AU)
Application Number:
AU2017/000088
Publication Date:
October 26, 2017
Filing Date:
April 13, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
PURTON, William Westmore (3 Davenport Street, Robe, South Australia 5276, AU)
International Classes:
A22B5/00; A22C17/00; G06T7/50
Domestic Patent References:
2006-06-01
Foreign References:
US20050257748A12005-11-24
AU2004200865A12004-03-25
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MISCHLEWSKI, Darryl (IP Strategies, P.O. Box 1254Camberwell, Victoria 3124, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
A system for marking individual cuts of meat prior to the carcase being cut into portions which includes

Identity codes applicable to each carcase

optical scanning means to obtain data related to an image of the

3 dimensional surface of the carcase

a processor programmed to receive said data and to create an image of the surface of the carcase with the locations of identity codes onto the surface a laser or ink jet printing device programmed by said processor to mark the surface of said carcase in a plurality of locations with said identity code.

A system as claimed in claim 1 in which the system is applicable to bovine, ovine, porcine and poultry carcasses.

A system as claimed in claim 2 which includes clamping means to secure the carcase for scanning

A system as claimed in claim 2 in which laser light scanning or area-based structured light scanning is used to determine the surface form, orientation and location of the major external anatomical features of the carcase.

A system as claimed in anyone of claims 1 to 3 in which data obtained from the scanning process is used to create a precise, 3-D virtual model of the carcase and sites on the virtual carcase model are nominated as target areas for labelling and their position is used to guide an automated marking mechanism over the surface of the actual carcase.

Substitute Sheet

(Rule 26) RO/AU

6. A method of proving provenance of a cut of meat using a code having indicia or symbols to identify the provenance of the carcase printed onto to the carcase at as many positions as there are cuts or portions of the carcase which uses the system claimed in claim 1.

Substitute Sheet

(Rule 26) RO/AU

Description:
TRACKING MEAT FROM SOURCE TO CUSTOMER

This invention relates to a method of ensuring certification of meat from paddock to plate. Back ground to the invention

Tracking and documenting the complete life cycle of farmed animals with the use of unique identity tags - either a simple tag printed with a number or code, or a more sophisticated tag enabled with RFID technology - is normal industry practice. Being able to identify an animal with a unique code, not only allows it to be traced back to the farm of origin or any feedlot between birth and slaughter. Additionally, this same code or number can be used by buyers and sellers at market to identify individual sales transactions and the chain of ownership. Animal breeders also need to identify animals which have the required optimum desirable characteristics to ensure that they can maintain or improve the genetic line.

Following the discovery of chemical residues, particularly pesticides, in the meat and fat of animals bred specifically for human consumption in the late 70's and early '80's, tracking the life of a farmed or feedlot animal was introduced via legislation by most developed countries in Europe and North America. Pressure for such legislation came from consumers who boycotted meat products, as well as from the farming sector via the meat and livestock industry bodies. Meat or live animal exporting countries found their products banned, impounded or had market access refused by agricultural agencies globally, due to the failure of the inadequate systems then used to monitor the integrity of animal production.

The early '80's also saw the discovery of meat and meat products being

contaminated with biological agents due to the indiscriminate use of re-processed animal protein which was being fed to animals as a food supplement. The practice of feeding animal protein to animals, brought with it TSE(Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy), otherwise known as Mad Cow's disease. TSE crossed over to the human population when the meat was improperly cooked before consumption

Since these two major events of chemical residue and biological

contamination, governments and industry have been searching for a system(s) for animal traceability which will enable the provenance of any animal to be determined from "Paddock to Plate" and guarantee food security for consumers. However, the identity and provenance of an animal currently stops at the point when the animal's head is removed(along with the attached identifying tag) during the latter stages of processing the animal, in every single abattoir. There have been a number of attempts to address the problem of losing the identity or provenance of each animal, but none has been entirely successful. Current practice is for the carcase to be labelled with a paper or plastic tag printed with a code or identifying number which is usually related, via a database, to the identifying ear tag previously removed along with the head of the animal. The consistently recurring problem is the fact that physical labels are prone to fall off the carcase, may be damaged or become unreadable due to the challenging abattoir environment and as a result, the unique identity of the animal or carcase and any possibility to track its provenance is lost. Also, the provenance of the carcase is lost immediately it is divided into its standard "cuts", portions or part-portions.

A similar circumstance effectively occurs with premium quality meat packed or "boxed" for the export market or for high-end, local consumption. In every pack or box of meat, there may be portions or "cuts" from multiple animals, and these too have an indeterminate provenance. Tracking systems for identifying carcasses have been proposed and examples are USA patents 5980377, 6997140 and 769517. USA patent discloses a combination of a transponder reader and a marking apparatus although the purpose is different to this proposal.

USA patent 8285606 discloses a passport system for tracking country of origin of meat.

USA patent RE41815 discloses a method of electronic tracking of meat cut from a single carcass which identifies the cuts by a transponder which carries an identifier from the originating carcass.

WO2009088347 discloses a meat marking device which implants a transponder into each cut of a carcass to provide individual marking.

It is an object of this invention to provide a secure method of identifying meat portions. Brief description of the invention

To this end the present invention provides a method to make redundant the current means of identification of the carcase or separate cuts or portions through the use of attaching separate identifying labels or stickers. This invention provides a method that reads the transponder or simple printed tag attached to the head of the carcass and converts the identification data to a code which can then be printed by inkjet printer or laser etched onto the portions cut from the carcass. This avoids loss of the stickers.

The system is applicable to bovine, ovine, porcine and poultry carcasses.

This invention also provides the combination of reader, software and a printing mechanism, that allows the bar code to be printed directly onto the meat cut.

To this end the invention provides a system for marking individual cuts of meat prior to the carcase being cut into portions which includes

Identity codes applicable to each carcase

optional clamping means to secure the carcase

optical scanning means to obtain data related to an image of the 3

dimensional surface of the carcase

a processor programmed to receive said data and to create an image of the surface of the carcase with the locations of identity codes onto the surface a laser or ink jet printing device programmed by said processor to mark the surface of said carcase in a plurality of locations with said identity code.

This invention provides an automated method of in-line, multiple labelling of an animal carcase after the animal has been processed (slaughtered, skinned and gutted) for human or animal consumption. Laser light scanning or area-based structured light scanning is used to determine the surface form, orientation and location of the major external anatomical features of the carcase. Data obtained from the scanning process is used to create a precise, 3-D virtual model and surface map of the carcase. Sites on the virtual carcase model are nominated as target areas for labelling and their position is used to create a string of operating code which will, via a pic, be used to guide an automated marking mechanism over the surface of the actual carcase.

Marking the actual carcase may use several techniques or a combination of techniques, including contact and non-contact printing using natural and artificial dyes approved for human consumption, direct stamping, hot or cold process branding, guided laser ablation of the superficial carcase tissues. Any of the above marking processes, will enable the accurate designation of unique marks, codes, letters or numbers to each of the standard individual "cuts" or carcase portions, so that even after an individual carcase has been physically separated into these same portions or individual "cuts", the provenance of the animal can still be determined. Employing this technology will ensure that any farmed animal can be traced from its birth to maturity, eventual slaughter and finally, to the plate of the consumer - "Paddock to Plate" provenance using "PTP technology".

In another aspect this invention provides a method of proving provenance of a cut of meat by way of using a code such as a bar code, QR code or other one or two dimensional code having indicia or symbols to identify the farm, the country of the farm the abattoir and its country as well as an indication of the breed and identity of the individual animal and other data such as mode of production ( eg lot fed, organic etc) and the date of slaughter. The code is preferably assigned to the animal at the slaughter house and may use data from the animals ear tag or other identity. This code is then printed onto to the carcase at as many positions as there are cuts or portions of the carcase. This ensures that when a portion is purchased at a supermarket the code will be on the portion and its provenance can be deciphered.

Detailed description of the invention

A preferred embodiment of the invention will be described with reference to the drawings in which

Figure 1 illustrates the initial scanning of the carcase;

Figure 2 illustrates the clamping of the carcase for scanning;

Figure 3 illustrates a plan view of a scanning /printing station

Figure 4 illustrates a preliminary hand scanner for use in the invention;

Figure 5 illustrates a side view of an alternative scanning station;

Figure 6 illustrates an end view of the embodiment of figure 5;

Figure 7 illustrates marked portions of the carcase after processing.

This proposed method of carcase labelling involves a 2-step process:

Step (1) Non-contact scanning of an entire animal carcase 10 as depicted in figuresl , 2 and 3 and the concurrent or immediately subsequent formation of a 3-D surface map and model of that same carcase. Either Laser light scanning using units 14 or Area-based structured light scanning with camera(s) or sensors using coherent or non-coherent illumination techniques 15 using light from either the IR, red, blue or a combination wavelengths, may be used to scan the carcase. The preferred embodiment of this invention utilizes Area-based structured light technology, utilizing laser technology in conjunction with one or more cameras or stereo-pair of cameras. In scanning the carcase the wavelengths of light used should avoid wavelengths that are absorbed by the flesh and water.

Data captured via the scanning process defines the precise orientation of the carcase, enabling the location and identification of the bulk surface anatomy, including the position of the limbs and neck. Prior to the commencement of the scanning process, the carcase 10 is held in a stationary position on the processing line. Preventing any lateral or twisting movement of the carcase is achieved via two separate, mechanical clamping mechanisms 1 1 , 12 which are both activated automatically immediately the carcase enters the scanning field or immediately prior to it entering the scanning field. The upper clamping mechanism 1 1 is capable of two functions: firstly, orientating the suspension hook(s) which attach the carcase to the overhead rail 13 or chain drive mechanism, in order to optimise the presentation of the carcase to the scanner and secondly, to immobilise the suspension hook(s) so that the carcase cannot rotate or move about its own vertical axis in any direction. The lower mechanical clamping mechanism 12 comprises two opposed clamping faces which hold the carcase from its anterior and posterior surfaces between the mid-to-upper thoracic region and the spine.

The carcase 10 may be fixed, as described above, and the scanning mechanism moved or mechanically driven either radially or vertically in a path around the vertical axis of the suspended carcase or, the scanning mechanism may comprise multiple, fixed scanning devices located radially at a distance from the central vertical axis of the suspended carcase to enable the capture of an accurate surface image and subsequent formation of a 3-D surface model of the carcase. The scanning data is sent to a server programmed to create a surface image of the carcase that can be labelled with the identity data of the carcase. The carcase will be held in this configuration and remain stationary relative to the marking mechanism, until its surface has been labelled using one or more marking technologies, including laser etching, branding, stamping or printing.

Step (2) Information derived from the scanning process in Step (1 ) is used to identify and precisely locate each nominated surface feature of the carcase. Digital instruction or code is sent to the pic which guides the printing, branding or laser marking devices17 over the surface of the carcase, in order to appropriately mark or label each nominated portion of the carcase with a mark 19 as shown in figures 2 and 7.

The preferred method of marking the carcase is through the use of guided laser etching which is entirely non-contact and less likely to create a possible carry-over contamination risk. Alternatively, surface printing of the carcase with contact and non-contact printing devices 17 using ink or other approved dye-stuffs which are deemed fit for human consumption. Hot and cold branding or direct stamping of the carcase are also possible alternative technologies.

The marks 19, consists of characters(including letters, numbers and symbols) or other coded information can be infinitely varied both in terms of composition, size and density of application on the surface of the carcase, to maximise the coverage and increase the likelihood of being able to identify individual "cuts", portions or part- portions there-of.

The direct labelling of the carcase will always include the unique identity of the animal and may also include information related to the processing of the carcase such as date, time, plant operator and location of the plant or abattoir where the animal was processed.

Line processing and carcase inspection

The modern abattoir is designed along industrial mass production principles. Live animals enter the processing line, are killed and immediately suspended

by their hindquarters from an overhead rail or moving chain conveyor via re-usable metal hooks, to be then bled out, skinned and gutted. At each stage of the process the animal and its carcase, including all the internal organs and brain, are visually inspected for any signs of disease or obvious physical abnormalities which might indicate an underlying diseased state. A visual inspection can only detect obvious diseases such as the presence of parasites, cysts, large solid tumours or other gross abnormalities. Biological or chemical contamination can only be discovered through blood and tissue sampling however, as it is neither practical nor

economically feasible to laboratory test every single animal, governments and meat industry organisations have chosen to secure the meat production chain by recording the entire provenance of each animal from birth through to maturity, eventual slaughter and processing as meat for human consumption.

Labelling

The production line abattoir process begins with stunning the animal, cutting the throat including the severing of the main artery and hanging the animal from its hindquarters, head-down to allow the carcase to bleed out. After bleeding out, the carcase is then skinned and the head, along with its attached ear tag identification, is usually removed. It is the preferred embodiment of this invention that the animal must immediately undergo PRIMARY LABELLING prior to its original identifying tag being removed.

This invention proposes that the PRIMARY LABELLING of the carcase can be achieved by one of two methods:

(1 ) Direct(physical) marking of the carcase using laser etching, stamping, branding or printing technologies or

(2) Indirect(electronic) marking of the carcase by allocating it to a known fixed or captive attachment point within the processing chain or line.

(1) Direct(physical) marking of the carcase - this method is mandatory for processing chains or lines that have no identifiable, fixed or captive attachment points from which to hang the carcase. The identity of the carcase is electronically recorded by reading the ear tag with the reader depicted in figure 4, before the head is removed along with the skin. The reader of figure 4 is preferably a hand-held reading device having both OCR capability for capturing the data from a simple, printed ear tag and, RFID interrogation capability for reading an RFID-enabled ear tag. In the case of animals having an RFID-enabled ear tag, the reading device may be fixed so that the tag is read automatically when the animal passes within close proximity or within its reading range. The captured information is sent to a data storage device which is also linked to a hand-held or robotically controlled device to directly mark the carcase using laser etching, printing, stamping or branding technologies. The Direct(physical) mark or PRIMARY LABEL, will be applied in the same general position on all carcases for ease of location and identification using OCR technology at the scanning station.

(2)lndirect(electronic) marking of the carcase - the identity of the carcase is recorded electronically as per the Direct(physical) marking method

described(above) using OCR or RFID reading technology, but rather than the carcase being physically marked, its identity is allocated to a known position within the processing chain or line. This method requires that the attachment points for the removable carcase hook(s) used to attach the carcase to the chain or line, be permanently, visually labelled or that they are labelled using RFID technology. The procedural difference between the two methods would only require the operator to read the ear tag and then read the identity of captive attachment point of the hook to the processing line. The identity of the captive attachment point might also be read automatically as it moves along a fixed line or path. Both the identity of the carcase and its attachment point within the chain or line, would be electronically linked and sent to the data storage device, being recalled when the particular carcase or the associated captive attachment point, arrives at the scanning station. Although the carcase is not physically marked using the Indirect(electronic) marking method, its identity and precise position in the processing line is now known via the

interrogation of the data storage device.

After the carcase has been gutted and has passed a final visual inspection, it is normal practice to print or stamp the surface with a highly visible fluorescent dye - usually bright pink in colour. In addition, a label of either plastic or paper with a unique identifying number, mark or code may also be physically attached to the carcase, before it is further processed or consigned to cold-storage

It is the case with this invention that, upon passing final inspection and having been stamped, the carcase is scanned and then subjected to multiple surface labelling, before it is further processed or consigned to cold-storage.

Scanning and multiple labelling station arrangement

The scanning station shown in figure 3 is a dedicated area within the processing line which is ideally located immediately after the point where the animal carcase is gutted and subjected to a final visual inspection. The area allocated for scanning the carcase and subsequently subjecting it to multiple labelling, is isolated from the general abattoir work areas or stations, via a series of solid screens or barriers to prevent extraneous light from various sources (either natural or artificial) interfering with the scanner and also to prevent high-power laser light escaping and possibly causing serious injury to nearby line operators. It is envisaged that the solid screens or barriers straddle the overhead rail or automated processing chain with the inclusion of a solid, horizontal screen or ceiling which would bridge the two long sides of the scanning station to form a tunnel. Only the tunnel entry and exit points for the moving processing chain or overhead rail are open to allow the movement of carcases through the scanning and labelling area, but these openings may be screened with the installation of opaque, flexible pairs of hinged panels or doors at either end of the tunnel. The proposed flexible doors will offer minimal resistance to a moving carcase which will readily pass through the openings and allow the panels to subsequently close automatically. Alternatively, an arrangement or series of baffles or a labyrinth path may obviate the need to install hinged panels or doors. Once inside the scanning and labelling zone depicted in figure 3, the carcase is orientated and clamped to optimise the accuracy of the scanning and multiple labelling processes. The identity of the carcase can be automatically determined using OCR or RFID reading technologies and interrogating the data storage device. A carcase that has a Direct(physical) mark or PRIMARY LABEL on its surface, may be identified automatically using OCR technology. A carcase with no

Direct(physical) mark will be identified by first reading the identity of the allocated attachment point from which its hook(s) is suspended and then interrogating the mass data storage device which previously recorded the details of the original ear tag and its allocated position of the carcase on the production chain using OCR or RFID reading technologies. When the multiple labelling process has been completed, the carcase is released and exits the scanning and labelling area to be further processed or consigned to cold-storage.

It is envisaged that smaller, less automated abattoirs or meat processing plants, may use a stand-alone unit with combined scanning and multiple labelling capability configured to operate in the horizontal position. This stand-alone unit is depicted in figures 5 and 6 and is housed in a tunnel-like structure to exclude extraneous light interfering with the scanning process and also prevent high-power laser light escaping and possibly causing serious injury to nearby line operators. The operator would remove a processed carcase from the normal overhead processing chain or line and place it on a reciprocating table or conveyor which would drive the carcase through the unit. Once scanned and multiply labelled, the carcase would be returned to the chain or line to be further processed or consigned to cold-storage.

The final marked carcase is now ready for further processing including cutting into marketable portions as shown in figure 7 with each portion having at least one coded identification 19 marked on it.

From the above it can be seen that this invention provides a unique and reliable method of guaranteeing provenance from paddock to plate. Those skilled in the art will also appreciate that this invention may be implemented in embodiments other than those described without departing from the core teachings of this invention.