Evaluation of a Video Image Analysis system for the prediction of carcass and meat quality in genetic improvement programmes
Video Image Analysis (VIA) is a digital camera based technology that extracts relevant information from images using purpose tailored image processing software. In the present work, the VSS2000 image analysis system from E+V Technology GmbH has been used in a large lamb abattoir to determine the value of carcasses in an objective, consistent and automated way. In this thesis results are reported of several experiments conducted within the framework of two UK-funded projects. The aims of the research were (i) the calibration and validation of the VIAtechnique for the evaluation of lamb carcasses under UK abattoir conditions, with the view to scientifically examine the accuracy and precision of information from the VIA systems as the basis for a value-based marketing system, (ii) to investigate the use of VIA measurements (weights of primal meat yields and carcass dimensional measurements) in sheep breeding programmes to improve carcass and meat quality and (iii) to evaluate the potential of this technology to reward increased carcass quality associated with the use of breeding strategies based on the inclusion of a quantitative trait locus (QTL) for improved muscularity. Accuracy, precision and consistency of The Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) carcass classification scheme, currently used in UK abattoirs to evaluate carcass quality, was compared against the VIA system in the prediction of various primal joint weights. The results highlighted the advantage of the VIA system being on average 2% more accurate (measured as coefficient of determination: R2) and 12% more precise (measured as root meat squared error: RMSE) in predicting weight of primal meat yields (leg, chump, loin, breast and shoulder) of the lamb carcasses than the MLC carcass classification scheme. The genetic analysis of VIA-based predicted primal joint weights showed substantial additive genetic variance, suggesting that their use in sheep breeding programmes could improve carcass quality either by an improvement of conformation or by an increased weight of the most valuable primal cuts, without an increase in fatness. Favourable associations between VIA primal weights and performance traits indicate that selection based on VIA traits is possible without a negative effect on average daily gain, live weight and cold carcass weight. Although computer tomography (CT) and dissection found in related studies significant effects of a Texel muscling-QTL (TM-QTL) for increased muscularity in the loin region, in the present study they could not be identified by both, the current industry carcass evaluation system for conformation and fatness and the VIA system. A calibration of the VIA system against CT measurements resulted in improved VIA prediction equations for primal meat yields and also showed a moderate potential to estimate loin muscle traits measured by CT and to detect partially the effect of the TM-QTL on these traits. The results of the research demonstrated that VIA is a consistent method to measure carcass composition and that it improved the prediction (accuracy and precision) of primal meat yields compared to the present MLC scoring system. The estimated genetic parameters for VIA primal meat yields suggested that selection for increased lean meat yield from lamb carcass measured using VIA can contribute to genetic improvement of carcass quality without increasing carcass fatness. The results suggest that VIA technology installed in abattoirs could provide the means for the development of a value-based marketing system by paying for weights of the most valuable primal cuts measured using VIA.