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1. WO2020117068 - CHIP, SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR MONITORING MEAT QUALITY PARAMETERS

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

[ EN ]

CHIP, SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR MONITORING MEAT QUALITY PARAMETERS

The invention relates to a device for monitoring parameters related to meat quality in an animal. The invention also relates to a system comprising the device and a method of using said device and the system.

Background

The meat quality of an animal, for instance a beef cattle, is to a large extend a result of a combination of breeding and feeding. Farmers and food industry have over many years bred livestock in order to strengthen specific features. Cattle is for instance to a large ex tent specialized into two groups; milk cattle and beef cattle. The Dutch cattle breed Hol-stein is an example of a specialized milk cow, where the breeding goal is high volumes of milk, at the expense of meat fatness. Angus and Charolais are examples of cattle breeds, where the breeding goal is high volume of meat fatness with high quality, at the expense of milk volume.

Beef cattle are typically fattened until 15 or 18 months of age, and then slaughtered. Dur-ing the fattening period, the cattle typically eat fresh grass and/or silage, normally supple mented with concentrates. The cattle may be fed inside a barn and/or outside in a pasture or on an uncultivated land.

Even though the breed and genetics are the same, differences in feeding strategy, type of grass and climate may give significant variations in the fatness and the meat quality of a beef cattle. A hot dry summer with a high dry matter content in the grass and silage may give a different meat quality than a wet and cold summer with a low dry matter content in the grass and silage. Meat from cattle eating salty grass near the sea may have a different flavour compared with a cattle grazing in an inland forest or in mountain areas. To equal ize possible differences related to feeding, it is known to give the cattle supplementary feed, for instance straw, or mixed silage with different quality.

The meat quality is typically identified by the amount of intramuscular fat in the meat, also known and seen as marbling. Intramuscular fat is by professionals referred to as IMF

Prior art and their disadvantages

The amount of IMF may be measured by using ultrasound. The ultrasound measurement is typically done three months before the cattle is planned for slaughtering. The method has a limited value, since the result does not give any information about the animal before or after the measuring.

The variance in meat quality is a problem for the industry, especially in high quality meat and beef products, since the industry cannot be sure if the cattle has the requested quality before it is slaughtered.

Due to the problems described above, the meat industry searches for improved solutions for monitoring the meat quality in animals to be slaughtered.

General description of the invention

The invention has for its object to remedy or to reduce at least one of the drawbacks of the prior art, or at least provide a useful alternative to prior art.

The object is achieved through features, which are specified in the description below and in the claims that follow. The invention is defined by the independent patent claims. The dependent claims define advantageous embodiments of the invention.

In a first aspect the invention relates to a device, more specifically a chip for monitoring at least one parameter related to meat quality, the chip being implanted in the body of an animal. The chip comprises a transmitter for transmitting a signal with a frequency through a portion of the body, a receiver for receiving the transmitted signal and a data processing module for calculating an impedance based on a measured change in the signal between the transmitter and the receiver.

The term body can in this aspect be understood as meat, muscle and fat, or any biological material inside an animal. The term animal covers any kind of animal. The invention may preferably be used for livestock, as for instance cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry.

The effect of transmitting a signal through a portion of the body and measure the imped ance, is that it is possible to monitor characteristics of a structure inside the body. The structure may comprise muscle, fat, blood and bone.

The chip may comprise a first end portion and a second end portion. The transmitter may be positioned in the first end portion. The receiver may be positioned in the second end portion.

At least one chip may be positioned in the animal. The chip may be implanted in the ani mal just after birth. A chip implanted in a living animal may be used to monitor said char acteristics when the animal is alive. The chip may preferably be implanted in the same position where possible meat samples are collected to determine the fat content in the meat. Possible positions may be a muscle close to the neck, the back or the hip. More than one chip may be implanted in one or more muscles. Said chip may be inserted in the same way as known ID-marking for pets, for instance dogs.

At least one chip may be positioned in a processed product originating from the animal. A chip implanted in a processed product of the animal, may be used to monitor the charac teristics in a processed product originated from a slaughtered animal.

A portion of the chip may be sealed so as to ensure that the signal is transmitted outside the chip and is not shortcut through the chip. The isolated portion may be arranged be tween the first end portion and the second end portion. A portion of the signal may follow the surface on the chip. A portion of the signal may be transferred as a wave in a distance from the chip. The chip may preferably comprise means by prior art to filter away signals which follow the surface of the chip and therefore have no relevance.

The impedance may be used for calculating the amount of fat (IMF) in the meat and the distribution of the fat.

The effect of using the impedance to calculate the IMF, is that it is possible to monitor the IMF for an animal at any time and without physical handling of the animal. The monitoring may be executed continuously, every hour, every day, every week, or every month. The monitoring may be done and transferred to an end user in real time. The end user may be a farmer. The end user may be a slaughterhouse.

Monitoring of the IMF on a regular basis as described herein makes it possible to monitor any change in the IMF during the lifetime of the animal. The information may be used to improve parameters influencing the meat quality. The information may be used to improve animal welfare.

The impedance increases with the amount of body fat. The impedance is correlated to values describing the IMF. The accurate correlation values may be found by research and continuously improved by processing the data captured by the system.

Another effect of the regular monitoring of the IMF, is that the end user may receive more accurate information about when the animal is ready for slaughtering.

A bull aged 12-18 months typically weighs about 500-550 kilos. Checking the IMF on a 550-kilo bull with an external ultrasound apparatus may be risky for the operator. Special precautions are therefore needed to avoid any injuries on the persons executing the ultra sound measurement using prior art. Said risk for injury may be eliminated by the inven tion, since the IMF may be monitored without any physical interaction with the animal.

The signal may be ultrasound.

The effect of transmitting ultrasound is that the ultrasound can register the structure in the material where the ultrasound-signal is transmitted.

The signal may be electromagnetic.

The effect of transmitting an electromagnetic signal, is that the chip may comprise a sim pler design than a chip transmitting ultrasound.

The chip may comprise a second transmitter for transmitting a second signal to an exter nal unit outside of the animal.

The effect of a means for transmitting a signal from the chip to an external unit, is that the data can be retrieved from the chip without removing the chip from the body. The data may be transferred wirelessly to a receiving unit, for instance a smartphone or a PC. The information may be transferred by using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or RFID.

Data may be transmitted from the chip to the external receiver according to a programmed interval. The external receiver may be a receiver arranged on a ground or in a building. The external receiver may be arranged in a flying object, for instance a drone. The drone may be arranged to collect signals from a large area, for instance a paddock in the moun-tain.

The chip may comprise means tracking the position of the animal.

The effect of a means for tracking the position of the animal is that the farmer may locate the position of the animal by for instance a mobile phone or a computer. The position may be tracked by using GPS tracking according to prior art. The position tracking may com-

prise a time schedule.

The position of the animal may be connected to the IMF monitoring data. Such a connec tion makes it possible to connect the position and the growth. For example, such a con nection may be used to monitor if one field give more animal growth than another field. It is also possible to see when the growth is at its highest.

The chip may comprise a battery and means for charging said battery by kinetic energy inside said chip.

The effect of said kinetic energy supply, is that it is not necessary to take out the chip for replacing the battery when the battery is out of power, meaning that the lifetime of the chip is extended. Kinetic energy supply is known from for instance wristwatches.

The chip may comprise a battery and means for charging said battery from the outside of the animal.

The effect of charging the battery from the outside of the animal, is that the chip may have a smaller size. The charging may be an inductive charger according to prior art. The in ductive charger may be positioned in a gate where the animal passes or in a feeding au tomat for concentrates.

The chip may comprise means for measuring homeostatic parameters in the animal, such as temperature and blood pressure.

The effect of measuring homeostatic parameters, is that it is possible to monitor the well being of the animal and detect sickness or rut at an early stage. Several biological para meters related to the wellbeing of an animal influences the quality of the product, for in stance the milk quality and the meat quality of a bull. By monitoring relevant biological parameters and link the monitored values with the final product, it may be possible to op timize for instance the feeding of the animals and avoid illness that require use of medica tion.

Additionally, the homeostatic parameters may be used to supply the IMF values regarding readiness for slaughtering.

The effect by combining the IMF-values with homeostatic parameters, is an improved ba sis and accuracy for decision making of when an animal is ready for slaughtering, which is not yet seen in the industry.

In a second aspect the invention relates to a system for monitoring at least one parameter related to meat quality in an animal. The system comprises a transmitter for transmitting a signal with a frequency through a portion of a body inside the animal, a receiver for receiv ing the transmitted signal, and a data processing module for calculating an impedance based on a measured change in the signal between the transmitter and the receiver.

The transmitter and the receiver may be arranged in a first chip for implanting in the body.

The effect of arranging the transmitter and the receiver in a first chip, is that one chip only may be used for the monitoring of the said parameters.

The data processing module may be arranged in the first chip.

The effect of arranging the data processing module for calculating the impedance in the chip, is that both the monitoring and the calculation may be done in the same unit, more specifically the first chip.

The signal may be transmitted from a first chip and received by a second chip.

The effect of transmitting the signal from a first chip to a second chip, is that the imped-ance can be measured between the first chip and the second chip. This may give an im proved quality because the signal is transmitted over a longer distance compared to one chip only.

Another effect is that is possible to measure the distance between the first chip and the second chip.

The effect of measuring the distance between the first chip and the second chip, is that it is possible to monitor the growth of the animal. The first chip may be positioned in a front part of the animal. The second chip may be positioned in a rear part of the animal.

The slaughter weight is normally proportional with the length of the animal, elevated in a potency. The potency value is normally close to three but said value may be very different from three when the animal is in a growth period. The scale value and potency value may therefore be determined as a function of the animal’s age. Different scale values and po tency values may therefore be developed and used by the system.

The signal may be transmitted to an external receiver arranged outside the animal.

The effect of transmitting the signal to an external receiver, is that the signal can be read in a simple way, for instance by using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or RFID.

The system may comprise means for weighing the animal.

Said means for weighing the animal may be an external weight, where the weight is measured automatically, and the measured values may be transmitted to the same exter-nal receiver as the signals transmitted from the chip.

The effect of weighing the animal, is that the farmer or slaughter house can receive more accurate information about the animal, for instance the fattening progress and when it is ready for slaughtering.

The weight may preferably be an animal weight of prior art. The weight may be positioned in a gate where the animal passes frequently.

The system may comprise means for monitoring the size of the animal. The size may be determined by image processing.

Said means for monitoring the size of the animal may be camera where the image is pro cessed according to prior art. The data from the image processing may be transmitted to the same external receiver as the signals transmitted from the chip. The camera may also be used to monitor the hold of the animal and the weight of the animal. This technique is known from milking robots. The term hold relates to parameters used for determining the energy balance of an animal and if the animal is skinny or fat.

The weight of the animal may be monitored by positioning a weight at a position where the animal passes regularly. The position may for instance be in a walkway for a feeding table or an automat for feed concentrates. The weight and the camera may be positioned in relation to a smart gate. Said smart gate may be prior art known in the cattle industry.

The weight and the camera may be arranged together. The weight and the camera may be connected in a system also comprising at least one chip.

In a third aspect the invention relates to a method for monitoring parameters related to meat quality in an animal, where the method comprises the steps of:

a) arranging a first chip according to the first aspect of the invention in the body of the animal;

b) transmitting a signal from the first chip to an external receiver;

c) processing the transmitted signal to calculate the IMF in a portion of the body

Method for monitoring parameters related to meat quality in an animal where the method comprises the steps of:

d) arranging a first chip and a second chip according to the first aspect of the inven- tion in the body of the animal; and

e) transmitting a signal from the first chip to the second chip for measuring the im pedance between the first chip and the second chip.

Method for monitoring parameters related to meat quality in an animal where the method comprises the steps of:

f) arranging a first chip and a second chip according to the first aspect of the inven tion in the body of the animal; and

g) transmitting a signal from the first chip to the second chip for measuring a distance between the first chip and the second chip.

The effect of measuring the distance between the first and second chip, is that it possible to monitor the growth of the animal.

In the following is described an example of a preferred embodiment illustrated in the ac companying drawings, wherein:

Fig. 1 shows a chip according to the invention;

Fig. 2 shows the chip implanted in an animal and the chip being part of a system;

and

Fig. 3 shows how a first and a second chip can be used to monitor the growth of a cattle.

Figure 1 shows a principal sketch of a chip 10 arranged for measuring an impedance in a body of an animal. The chip 10 comprises a first end portion 11 , a second end portion 12 and a middle portion 13. A transmitter 14 is positioned in the first end portion 11. A receiv er 15 is positioned in the second end portion 12. The signal 99 is transmitted from the first end portion 11 to the second end portion 12.

The chip 10 further comprises a data processing module 16 for processing the signal 15, a battery 17 with a kinetic battery charger 18 and a second transmitter 19 arranged to transmit a processed signal to an external unit 30 outside the animal 90 (see figure 2).

The middle portion 13 is isolated to avoid that the transmitted signal 99 is inferenced by the electronics inside the chip 10. The transmitted signal 99 is an ultrasound signal or an electromagnetic signal.

The transmitted signal 99 has a specific frequency and is transmitted as a wave as shown in figure 1. A portion of the signal 99 may follow the shortest possible route, along the out side surface of the chip 10, thus giving a false signal. A portion of the signal will go through the body of the animal 90, 90a at a distance from the chip. The data processing module 16 comprises means by prior art arranged for filtering away false signals.

The characteristics of the signal 99 will change during the transmission and the change depends on the structure of the body which the signal passes through. The data pro cessing module 16 processes the signal 99 and calculates the impedance.

The processed signal is transmitted from the chip 10 to the external unit 30 via the internal transmitter 19.

Figure 2 shows the chip 10 positioned in an animal 90, more specifically cattle. The data 99 processed by the chip is transmitted to the external receiver 30 and to a laptop 32 where the data is used for calculating the IMF. The chip 10 is also shown with a GPS-system 40 monitoring the position of the cattle and sending the position data to the laptop 32.

The chip 10 is implanted in the neck of the cattle 90, where it is normal to take physical IMF samples.

Figure 3 shows cattle as a calf 90a and as grown cattle 90. A first chip 10a and a second chip 10b is implanted in the calf 99a when it is newborn. The first chip 10a communicates with the second chip 10b. Signals 99 are transmitted from the first chip 10a and received by the second chip 10b. The impedance is calculated with basis in the changes in the sig nal between the first chip 10a and the second chip 10b.

The chips 10a, 10b calculate the distance L between the two chips 10a, 10b as the animal grows from a calf 90a to grown cattle 90. The actual values are sent to the external re ceiver 30 and the laptop 32, shown in figure 2.

A weight 50 and a camera 51 is added to a monitoring system as supplementary means giving additional information about the cattle 90. By connecting the first chip 10a, the sec ond chip 10b, the weight 50 and the camera 51 into a system, the farmer and the slaugh ter house get the best possible information about the slaughter readiness of the cattle 99. The weight 50 and the camera 51 is known by prior art. The camera uses 2D or 3D image processing to determine the size of the cattle and if the cattle is skinny or fat.

It should be noted that the above-mentioned embodiments illustrate rather than limit the invention, and that those skilled in the art will be able to design many alternative embodi ments without departing from the scope of the appended claims. In the claims, any refer-ence signs placed between parentheses shall not be construed as limiting the claim. Use of the verb "comprise" and its conjugations does not exclude the presence of elements or steps other than those stated in a claim. The article "a" or "an" preceding an element does not exclude the presence of a plurality of such elements.

The mere fact that certain measures are recited in mutually different dependent claims does not indicate that a combination of these measures cannot be used to advantage.