Unique mobile sensory lab unveiled

Consumers could soon be playing an important role in livestock genetics thanks a new mobile sensory lab developed by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), funded and supported by the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) through Innovate UK.

The sensory lab, equipped with state-of-the-art imaging and meat quality technologies uniquely housed within an articulated lorry, can travel around the UK to events and retail outlets. Members of the public, importantly of different ages, locations and backgrounds, can then be invited to sample different meats and food products and indicate preferences via touchscreens.

SRUC’s world-leading livestock scientists will use the information collected as part of their genetic improvement research which, in turn, will influence breeding programmes for sheep, cattle and pigs.

The mobile lab is the brainchild of Professor Mike Coffey, Team Leader for Animal and Veterinary Sciences at SRUC.

Prof. Coffey said: “Our overall aim is to improve the quality of the meat we consume. Instead of taking consumers into the lab, we will now be taking the lab out to consumers. Learning more about individual taste preferences of members of the public gives us valuable insight and will help us to improve the genetics of our farm animals.”

Showcased at the recent UK Agri-Tech Centres Capability Showcase event, held 21 March 2018, the facility was explored with great interest by delegates.

I’m pleased CIEL funding has brought this novel concept to reality. Such innovations are vital for the UK agrifood sector to compete – in this case, making sure we are producing what the consumer wants. Breeding for specific traits such as taste and tenderness of meat can take years. Facilities like this will help determine breeding decisions and further improve the great products we produce in the UK.

Lyndsay Chapman, CEO, CIEL