The Autofom - A Total Review

Duff George
Hatfield Quality Meats
Hatfield, PA

Hatfield Quality Meats is located in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, approximately 25 miles north of Philadelphia. We are a full-line slaughterer/processor of about 7,500 hogs per day. In addition, to our Hatfield facility, we also have several subsidiaries involved with pre-cooking and further processing. Our location provides access to the major metropolitan centers of Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. The majority of our marketing is focused in the mid-Atlantic region, but extends from Maine to Florida in some instances. Hatfield is a family owned, privately held company founded in 1895 and has operated at our current location since 1946.

Since July of 1997, Hatfield Quality Meats has utilized the Autofom Grading System as a part of its carcass merit-buying program. The Autofom System is comprised of a stationary ultrasonic transducer array that requires no operator. Each carcass passes over the array after the de-hairing when the carcass is still warm and pliable in order to ensure good contact with the transducers. Extensive image analysis results in the determination of 127 key predictors. These predictors are used in an equation to generate a measurement called Primal Cut Percent. Primal Cut Percent provides a measure of carcass leanness and is the key component to determining carcass value. The Primal Cut Percent is the percent of the carcass made up of trimmed loins, hams and shoulders. In addition to the Primal Cut Percent, the Autofom also provides a prediction of the individual weights of the primal cuts plus the belly.

The Autofom System has proven to be very accurate and reliable. To date, overall down time and maintenance requirements have been less than required with our previous Fat-o-meat'er system. There is little physical maintenance required because there are no moving mechanical parts in the system. Prediction accuracy with the Autofom has improved 30% from the Fat-o-meat'er based system.

Reliable trolley identification is a key part to the entire Autofom system. Accurately linking the Autofom information and carcass weight and transferring that information accurately to the mainframe is critical. The combination of trolley read rate and Autofom scanning capability provides the measure of system performance. Presently, over 99% of all carcasses are scanned and identified.

The primary use of the Autofom to date has been for carcass merit payment. Currently, Hatfield uses Autofom information for selecting carcasses for case ready production and reduced fat bacon. In the future, the Autofom will be used more extensively to segregate carcasses for optimal use in the fabrication area. Knowing the contents of a carcass prior to fabrication can have a significant impact on profitability. Many additional applications of Autofom Technology are possible. We have already begun to research the possibility of predicting loin eye area and marbling.