AMES, IOWA – Extended online tests of a newly developed instrument-grading system for pork carcasses reportedly demonstrate its ability to differentiate pork loins relative to marbling levels.

A recent journal research article supported by researchers at Colorado State University and Ohio State University also found a positive relationship between increased marbling levels and ultimate pH, a major industry standard for measuring pork quality. Years of selection for lean hogs in the US have removed much of the intramuscular fat from the loin muscle, the fat that provides juiciness and flavor. Loss of natural pork flavor and juiciness has been replaced with salt solutions and flavor enhancers injected into the meat by processors.

"This new instrument, called BioQscan, has now been tested on more than 20,000 pork carcasses and has proven its ability to operate effectively at chain processing speeds exceeding 1,200 carcasses per hour,” said Doyle Wilson, president of Biotronics Inc.

Within milliseconds of the BioQscan probe being placed on the skin of a pork carcass, the marbling level is known, allowing each carcass to be differentiated relative to its quality, Wilson said.

During the last five years, Biotronics said it has been developing and perfecting this technology and is now gearing up for commercial production. An added benefit to the technology is its ability to accurately measure backfat depth and loin depth through noninvasive means, two important traits in the determination of pork carcass percent lean. Pork producers could receive added payment benefits for carcasses meeting minimum marbling specifications while maintaining high percent lean values.

Foreign buyers of pork loins from the US will be carefully watching this new pork loin grading technology. While many foreign buyers like the majority of the pork they procure from the US, quality assessments are at best rudimentary, with loins being visually sorted by loin color and perhaps some attempt at marbling level by looking at the outside of skinned boneless loins.

The new BioQscan technology allows the packer to place an instrument-graded marbling level on each loin, guaranteeing that it meets minimum levels of marbling, the company said. The adequate level of marbling almost always guarantees that each and every pork chop will be juicy and have plenty of good old fashioned flavor, the company added.

US high-end restaurant chefs are also expected to take a keen interest in this new technology. Pork flavor will increase significantly when marbling is put back in the pork loin, the company said.