NIR vs. Extraction for Fat Determination

Fat is a critical parameter across the food, beverage and feed industries. However, the best solution for obtaining fat varies across the production cycle. In this blog, we propose extraction and near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy methods for fat determination, with arguments for which technology is the best fit based on factors such as:

  • Application scope
  • Variation in sample type
  • Automated throughput
  • Speed
  • Unattended operation
  • Compliance
  • Start-up costs
  • Eco-friendliness

You can read foundational principles about extraction or NIR in earlier blog posts. Here, we will dive right into the practical discussion of selecting the best solution for your lab.

Round 1: You have a lot of different applications to run

Fat, protein, moisture, ash, starch, lactose… if the list of parameters you’re measuring looks like a shopping list, then NIR may be a good fit for your lab or production area. BUCHI NIR offers a variety of solutions to provide fast and easy analysis of a broad range of sample properties. Qualitative (e.g. product quality or conformity or to flag adulteration) and quantitative (e.g. %-fat) methods are possible.

[Round 1] NIR: 1 Extraction: 0

Round 2: Your samples are constantly changing

If your samples and/or formulation are relatively consistent, then NIR is a great method. Calibrations are easily updated when changes like raw ingredient supplier occur. However, if samples or sample formulations are a moving target, NIR calibration becomes impractical. For those situations, extraction is the better choice, where changing matrices or highly heterogeneous samples are more easily accommodated.

[Round 2] NIR: 0 Extraction: 1

Round 3: Automation & high throughput are critical

High throughput can be generated by a short sequence of multiple samples or by a high degree of parallelization. Extraction can be a slower technique than NIR, but our FatExtractor E-500 cuts valuable wait time and can safely process 6 samples in parallel. With continuous operation, up to 72 samples can be processed by the FatExtractor in a 9 hour workday.

At-line NIR (like the BUCHI NIRMaster or ProxiMate) provides exceptionally fast measurements (typically 15 – 60 seconds). Approximately 190 samples can be measured for all calibrated values (like fat, protein and moisture) within a 9 hour period. The downside: even though there is no sample prep required, samples are collected one-at-a-time and require manual placement on the system.

On-line NIR stands out by offering a continuous stream of real-time measurement data with no sample handling required. With process control system integration, online NIR is the clear winner when automation and throughput are deemed most critical.

[Round 3] On-line NIR: 1 At-line NIR & Extraction: 0

Round 4: Data collection is rate-limiting

A rapid method is required to increase sampling frequency, enabling better quality control across food and beverage production, as well as feed and forage ingredients, pre-mix and finished products.

At-line NIR solutions for the food industry, like the IP-69 ProxiMate, are hygienic, easy-to-use instruments to test in a control room or on the plant floor. Configurations like Up and Down view allow you to optimize measurement performance based on your sample types; add an optional VIS sensor calibrate for color. With various accessories like glass or plastic dishes and transflectance adapters, the ProxiMate can collect data for solids, liquids, powders, gels and pastes. Calibrated properties are measured simultaneously, with measurement times under 1 minute.

For even more rapid data collection, in-line or on-line NIR measurement systems are integrated into hoppers, conveyor belts, mixers or other processing equipment to provide real-time data and process control capabilities.

[Round 4] NIR: 1 Extraction: 0

Round 5: Unattended operation is required

With the use of the Interface I-300 Pro controller and remote monitoring capabilities, unattended operation is possible during sample extraction, while at-line NIR products require manual sample changing. On the other hand, on-line NIR offers completely unattended operation.

[Round 5] On-line NIR: 1 At-line NIR: 0 Extraction: 1

Round 6: You need to show compliance

Extraction is the most established reference method for fat determination in food, beverage, feed and forage. It often serves as the primary reference method for fat calibrations using NIR. Plus, it is compliant with a plethora of national and international regulations, including AOAC, ISO, DIN, LFGB and many more.

You can find application notes presenting compliant extraction methods for a variety of sample matrices, from plant-based proteins to the carnivorous stuff, using our Application Finder.

[Round 6] NIR: 0 Extraction: 1

Round 7: Start-up cost is an issue

The BUCHI extraction portfolio offers sophisticated, fully-automated solutions. The BUCHI ProxiMate is a high-quality at-line NIR solution with reasonably priced start-up costs and calibration costs. Some examples of quick start (plug and play) applications include:

  • Meats & seafood
  • Feed & pet food
  • Milk & dairy
  • Milling & bakery
  • Confectionery
  • Ready-made meals
  • Oils & fats

Operational NIR methods always out-perform extraction with respect to low running costs because no chemical consumables are required for routine sampling.

[Round 7] NIR: 0 Extraction: 1

Round 8: You want to go green

Organic solvents use makes extraction exceptionally less green than NIR; BUCHI NIR solutions produce no emissions and requires no solvents or catalysts. Moreover, analysts avoid contact with chemicals using NIR.

[Round 8] NIR: 1 Extraction: 0

Final Bell: Close Call!

After round-to-round comparisons, this match looks like a DRAW. Each technique has advantages that put its competition against the ropes. Looking for compliance, unattended operation and automation? Put extraction in your corner. If your ideal solution is a master of multitasking with incredible speed and agility, then place your bets on NIR. At the end of the day, only you can decide what advantages can be exploited to achieve your workplace and workflow objectives.

If you’re hungry for more content related to the food and feed industry, check out our dedicated microsite for content like lab guides, application notes, videos, webinars, and promotions. You’ll find information to support your efforts from R&D through formulation, production, and QC.

Dig deeper into BUCHI solutions using the links below:

As always, contact us if you want to speak with an expert on NIR or extraction!

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