A ‘beefed up’ use of forensic testing in the cattle industry

The Raman laser being used to classify beef.
The Raman laser being used to classify beef.

Forget CSI, forensic science is being used to help correctly classify beef.

Premium grass-fed and grain-fed beef products could soon be identified using a simple forensic test, according to researchers from the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University.

NSW DPI meat scientist, Stephanie Fowler, said Raman spectroscopy, which is used in forensic chemistry to identify molecules, could be used to help certify premium beef products.

“The technology is particularly suited to overseas markets where adulteration issues can compromise the integrity of Australian beef and could help maintain market access for our premium products in high value markets,” Dr Fowler said.

“Consumers need to feel confident they are getting what they pay for and Raman technology, which is a hand-held laser device, could deliver the correct analysis in real- time during processing.”

Raman spectrography uses a laser to interact with the chemical bonds of the product.

Bridgette Logan uses the Raman laser.

Bridgette Logan uses the Raman laser.

CSU post-graduate student, Bridgette Logan has won a scholarship from the Australian Meat Processors Corporation to deliver the three-year project funded by Meat and Livestock Australia.

“Clearly it’s important to be able to verify grass and grain-fed beef and Raman offers a timely, cost-effective process,” Ms Logan said.

“Current laboratory testing is costly, resource intense and is not sustainable. 

“Lab tests require destruction of the meat, while Raman spectrography is a non-invasive, non-destructive technology.

“Phase one of the project started this year and we’ve already identified extremes and set parameters for grain-fed and grass-fed products.

“The aim is to develop the technology to a point where we can trial it in the field and ascertain how rapidly the technology can be delivered and adopted.”

The Raman spectrography allows scientists to identify the different chemical profiles of grain and grass-fed beef, including beta carotene and fatty acids.