In high-tech hands

The British lamb industry in Wales is in high-tech hands that are guiding the way forward for the trade. Anglesey based Welsh Country Foods (WCF), in close collaboration with HCC, is using what can arguably be described as some of the latest equipment and machinery to be found anywhere in the world to improve lamb production efficiency, provide valuable feedback to farmers, and eventually aid exports.

Central to the plant's

efficiency is a slaughter-line

capable of speeds that match any other system worldwide. One of the stars in the company's technology line up is a £300,000, ground-breaking, Video Imaging Analysis system, funded by HCC and other levy boards.

Still in the prototype stage, the system photographs carcases to record vital statistics and measurements. Sophisticated computer software then analyses the accuracy of

predicting all aspects of carcase quality and size. It is hoped the system, the first sheep unit based in the UK, will contribute to

efficiency and consistency by

assessing sheep carcase classification and meat yield, with the additional aim of increasing industry confidence in classification.

WCF site director Trevor

Hanger said: "The aim is to develop a system that can deliver real-time assessment of a carcase,

identifying meat yield by

primal as well as its underlying

conformation and fat class as a direct comparison to the existing EUROP grid known to all suppliers."

The system has the potential to operate on a moving line at up to 1,000 carcases an hour. It should eventually be able to provide farmers with information to improve their supply of lambs to processors, ultimately leading to better lamb on supermarket shelves. It is being evaluated over a five-month period, with a

final report expected to be

published this autumn.

WCF is also very active on the export front. On the Continent, Wales can trade on its best selling points of being a country where good rainfall makes the grass grow long and lush, and where the

environment is more natural for the sheep that live there. Carcase exports, which mainly go to Italy and Portugal, make up about 20% of WCF's not inconsequential production of up to 35,000 lambs a week in peak season.

Elwyn Pugh, WCF sales and marketing director, said: "HCC have done a fantastic job of promoting Welsh Lamb abroad."

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