[ASC-media] Media Release: Succulent Success

CRCA Media crca-media at starclass.com.au
Mon Oct 6 22:18:24 EST 2003

Co-operative Research Centres Association Media Release - CRCA 35

October 7, 2003


Research at Australia's Co-operative Research Centres is breaking fresh ground in the contest to establish Australian foods as the world's best. Three examples follow.

AUSTRALIAN FRESH FARMED TUNA is a premium product in one of the world's choosiest markets and this position is being guaranteed by an exhaustive probe into the total chain from the southern bluefin tuna fish farms in South Australia to the customer in Japan.

In one of the most intensive investigations of a food chain ever undertaken, researchers from the Aquafin CRC accompanied individual fish on every stage of their journey from water to platter.

"It was a huge logistic challenge - we ended up exhausted, but very satisfied with our achievements. We spend ten frantic days on farms, in plants, planes and markets in Japan chasing people and fish, sampling and testing every step of the way," says Dr Phil Thomas.

Results from the study are expected to reveal exactly what goes on in tuna meat on its way to the consumer.

"Our goal is to have Australian farmed tuna recognized as second to none - and to do that we need to find out everything that can happen to it en route, from harvest to restaurant," Dr Thomas explains.

"The high price of tuna - around $A35-40 a kilo fresh at auction in Japan - is what justifies such an extensive and detailed study.  Like our best wine, tuna is an elite product and we are undertaking research to support South Australian producers to keep it that way."

Key to the process is the 'bloom', the rich red colour which fresh tuna meat turns when it is cut.  This visual appeal is critical to creating high demand.

Also important are achieving the right fat content of the fish and extending shelf life.  In a recent advance, the Aquafin CRC team has found that correct vitamin balance in the fish's diet can significantly improve the keeping quality of its meat. They are also investigating the effects of providing optimal growing and harvesting conditions on the eating quality of farmed fish.

The results of the research will give tuna farmers new ways to assess their husbandry, feeding, slaughter and post-harvest techniques in order to ensure Australia's tuna industry, worth about $440 million and employing 1750 people, continue to commands premium prices in the world's most discriminating fish market.

More information:
Dr Phil Thomas, Aquafin CRC, 08 8683 2544
Emily Downes, Aquafin CRC, 08 8290 2302
GENTLE HANDLING of cattle makes a big difference to the eating quality of the meat.

Research at the Cattle and Beef Quality CRC led by Dr Robyn Warner (Vic. Dept of Primary Industries) and Dr Drewe Ferguson (CSIRO) has found the treatment of animals during lairage - when they are held at the abattoir prior to slaughter - can have a large impact on stress, and on the ultimate consumer acceptability of the meat.

This follows earlier work by the CRC which examined the impact of mixing unfamiliar cattle prior to slaughter. 

The new research shows that use of electric cattle prods just prior to slaughter can cause a significant decrease in eating quality and water holding properties of the meat.

"When we compared consumer reaction to meat from animals that had been subjected to cattle prods with those that had not, there was quite a surprising difference," says Dr Robyn Warner.

"The Meat Standards Australia (MSA) consumer panel definitely found the meat from stressed animals to be tougher and less palatable."

"These results indicate that the industry may have underestimated the impact that even mild levels of pre-slaughter stress on the animal can have on meat toughness.  They tell us we need to take greater care in all aspects of how animals are treated and handled between farm and abattoir."

To complicate the picture, the effect of stress on eating quality does not seem to be directly linked to known mechanisms associated with toughness rather there appears to be other biochemical factors at play..

However the conclusion is clear - that gentler handling of animals pays off in the form of better beef quality, and consumers can tell the difference, Dr Ferguson says.

The Beef CRC is putting together a technology transfer package to advise producers, processors, transporters and other in the industry of the latest findings, with the ultimate goal of delivering even better Australian beef to domestic and export consumers. 

More information:
Dr Drewe Ferguson, CRC for Cattle and Beef Quality, 02 67761354
Dr Robyn Warner, CRC for Cattle and Beef Quality, 03 97420477
Peter Dundon, CBQ CRC, 02 6773 3981

THE PALATES AND POCKETS of Australian wine lovers are facing a hammering as the impact of the drought continues to menace the nation's 2004 vintage through reduced water availability in grapegrowing regions across southern Australia.

But researchers from the CRC for Viticulture (CRCV) are speeding to the rescue with a package to help grape growers make the very best use of scarce water.

The CRCV's VineLOGIC program is a computer simulation that allows users to create various vineyard scenarios based on different soil types, irrigation methods, water availability, climate, salinity, vine canopy management etc.  The simulation then predicts the likely grape yield and total water use for different scenarios - so the grower can select the best outcome.
Although VineLOGIC education package was released to universities, TAFEs and schools in May this year and is being widely used, the professional version for grapegrowers was not due out till May 2004.

However, in view of widespread water restrictions across southern Australia and great uncertainty among grapegrowers, the CRCV has decided to make VineLOGIC available through workshops across the main growing areas of the Murray / Murrumbidgee region.

"VineLOGIC allows growers to compare different scenarios in their own vineyards - for example what will be the likely impact on yield and vine stress if they use 30 per cent less water, and apply it in different strategies during the season," says CRCV project co-ordinator Max Tolson.

"This package can also show the impact on yield of irrigating with saline water. This is an incredibly important issue, especially the Riverland, and we can look at strategies that reduce soil salinity and the uptake of salt into the vine.

"It shows growers that there are lots of options in regards to their irrigation practices and explores the outcomes of changes to their strategies. It provides a sound scientific starting point for looking at the best irrigation practices for what is shaping up to be a difficult season."

More information:
Max Tolson, CRCV, 03 5023 0644 or Mobile: 0408 052 338
Sally Raphael, 08 8363 6811

Julian Cribb, CRCA media, 0418 639 245

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