A major meatpacker plans to introduce new technology into one of its facilities to pilot the use of vision systems and machine learning in beef carcass inspection.

Tyson will deploy the technology at its Holcomb, Kansas, plant in January after originally petitioning USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for a waiver to try out the new protocols in March 2019.

Barb Masters, Tyson’s vice president of regulatory policy, says the technology will allow for speedier feedback to beef producers providing animals to the facility.

“What we hope to do with this technology is really provide some transparency to our producers to those that want to have really good insight,” she said. “It’s almost like a post-mortem exam on every animal if they wanted that level of detail.”

Jennifer Williams, Tyson’s vice president of food safety and quality assurance fresh meats division, noted current restrictions on photos and videos of USDA inspectors at work wouldn’t be in place under the new project framework, so “there are no restrictions about how many pictures we can and cannot take and whose arm is in the picture, so to speak.”

While the project would include additional responsibilities for Tyson team members at the facility, FSIS inspectors would retain complete inspection and food safety oversight throughout the plant, including total inspection of all beef carcasses and parts. Williams said maintained USDA presence as well as practices on the part of Tysons employees should assure confidence in the plan’s food safety outcomes.

 “We don’t have a business unless consumers love their beef product, want more, and feel good about it,” she said.

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