Electronic sheep grading get approval in Dixon

Superior Farms has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin grading carcasses with the VSS2000 System camera (electronic grading)—the first digital camera to be approved for use in the American lamb industry. The new digital camera was installed the company’s Dixon, California, plant in October 2015, and Superior Farms has worked hand-in-hand with USDA since that time to secure approval.

“Our team worked closely with the USDA for two years validating the camera’s algorithms to assure accurate full carcass measurements of both yield and quality grades,” said Superior Farms President and CEO Rick Stott. “Combining electronic grading with our Producer Portal will allow unprecedented access to carcass information by our producer partners that will allow every segment of our industry to continue to produce a better product.”

This electronic grading system will provide Superior Farms’ producers detailed meat information about their lambs.

“We will now be able to share this detailed information with our producer partners through our Producer Portal,” said Director of Producer Resources and Sustainability Lesa Eidman. “This information includes the USDA yield grade and quality grade, as well as the ovine cutability calculation, the primal weights (leg, loin, shoulder, rack, breast, trotters, and neck) and two digital images of each lamb carcass processed.

“Ultimately, producers will be able to make genetic and production changes to provide U.S. lamb customers with the highest quality, most consistent product we can deliver.”

The next steps are to, first, pair this information with the electronic identification tags so that producers can see the data on an individual lamb basis. Second is to implement the technology in Superior Farms’ Denver facility.

“We look forward to working with the USDA to expedite the approval process so that both of our facilities have this state-of-the-art technology,” Stott said.

A USDA grader will remain onsite to verify that the technology remains accurate and in-line with the USDA grading standards.