NON-DESTRUCTIVE MEAT INSPECTION TECHNOLOGIES AND PREDICTIVE PROCESS CONTROL TO OPTMIZE THE DRY-CURED HAM MANUFACTURING PROCESS
Dry-cured ham is the processed meat product with the highest market value in Europe. Despite the apparent simplicity of the manufacturing process, dry-cured ham producers face a major problem related to the lack of repeatability of the final products, which is caused by the variable response of fresh hams to salting and drying processes. The poor control over the dry curing-process leads to substantial economic losses due to excessive weight losses, and the reduction of the commercial value of the final product due to non-compliance with quality standards. In the frame of this project, and based on the know-how acquired in a previous European Research Project (www.procured.eu), we aim to develop an innovative dry-cured ham manufacturing process, and to implement it at industrial scale. The proposed process is based on a Predictive Control System, which will optimize the salting and drying conditions based on the characteristics of individual hams, as determined by novel in-line meat inspection systems. This Project shall represent a benefit for Italian and Spanish ham producers, providing scientific bases and advanced manufacturing solutions to process management.