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7 December, 2020

How a new shelf life predictor will reduce wasted product

A new tool, five years in the making, is now helping to better predict the shelf life of red meat.

A new tool, five years in the making, is now helping to better predict the shelf life of red meat.

Shelf life is considered a non‑technical trade barrier as some countries won’t accept Australian red meat (since it can take 30 days to ship product internationally).

MLA, in conjunction with the University of Tasmania, collected data on the temperature of chilled meat products and the time it takes to send them to Australia’s overseas markets, so red meat brand owners and exporters can more accurately determine shelf life.

Previous MLA research to validate the shelf life of red meat has helped to negotiate more favourable shelf life conditions for Australian chilled beef and sheepmeat in many export markets, such as United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The addition of this new shelf life prediction tool allows the red meat supply chain to ensure product quality is maintained until the labelled expiry date.

It’s being used in pilot studies to find and fix problems in cold chain management, to reduce customer complaints and insurance claims, and to potentially assist red meat brand owners to negotiate trade in export markets.

MLA’s Market Access Science and Technology Manager, Ian Jenson, said the shelf life predictor tool will benefit red meat brand owners and producers to help grow Australian red meat’s market share.

“The tool is essentially an equation, in the form of a spreadsheet, which uses time and temperature data (collected through data loggers) to tell us how much the shelf life of a chilled, vacuum‑packed red meat product has been used up and how much is left, based on certain storage conditions,” Ian said.

Data loggers have always been included in red meat shipments to record temperature data, but it was difficult for brand owners to determine where the problem was and how to fix it.

“It’s standard practice to include a data logger with a shipment, but sometimes we never see them again. If there’s a problem, we have to try and retrieve it and then interpret the data – this has left many exporters scratching their heads,” Ian said.

“This is where the shelf life predictor tool comes in – it turns data into valuable information.”

Data loggers are now more sophisticated as they can measure temperature as well as the GPS location, sending data to the cloud so it can be read in real time.

“This gives exporters the ability to control the supply chain, identify where the problem is and work to fix it.

“The data can tell us where the product is at a particular temperature, so exporters can determine who’s responsible,” Ian said.

“Identifying and fixing problems in cold chain management makes the supply chain more efficient.”


Benefit to brand owners and exporters
The shelf life predictor tool gives red meat brand owners and exporters:

 • Increased awareness of precise temperature control

• The ability to use the shelf life predictor tool with GPS data loggers to forecast potential issues early on

• The ability to offer an informed opinion if there is a problem.

“We’re encouraging people to look at the data and understand how they can change their practices to ensure the quality of the red meat product at the other end of the supply chain.”

It is expected to become commercially available within a year.

This article was originally published in the Meat & Livestock Australia’s Feedback magazine (

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