Industrial Food Machine of the Day: Automated Lamb Boner

Using X-ray imaging to determine the choicest cut

Butchers are adept at making the ideal cuts in a side of meat, reducing waste while finding the right balance of fat, connective tissue and supple muscle that will eventually become a juicy steak or chop. But robots do not possess a human’s knifely intuition, so they must be equipped with extra tools. This machine uses X-ray technology to find the best cut.

This lamb processing plant is fully automated, using robotic arms, conveyor belts and an X-ray room to process whole slaughtered lambs into crown racks, chops and more. Scott Technology Ltd. of New Zealand built this system to speed up the lamb-processing process.

The machine solves the “variable lamb carcass problem,” which we bet you didn’t know existed, by automatically adjusting to the lamb’s size. Lamb carcasses come in through an X-ray machine and then move through a robotic butchering system according to part — forequarter, middle and hindquarter.

It uses circular saws rather than bandsaws, which cuts down on sawdust. It automates almost the entire process, using robotic claws, saws, grippers, terrifying-looking torso impalers and more to keep the process clean. The best part is the X-ray system, which finds the ribs and other bones to improve the robots’ cutting accuracy.