Measurement of Gas Holes and Mechanical Openness in Cheese by Image Analysis

M. Caccamo,1 C. Melilli,1 D. M. Barbano,2 G. Portelli,1 G. Marino,1 and G. Licitra 1,3

1- CoRFiLaC, Regione Siciliana, 97100 Ragusa, Italy
2- Northeast Dairy Food Research Center, Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
3- Dipartimento di Scienze Agronomiche, Agrochimiche e delle Produzioni Animali, Catania University, Via Valdisavoia 5, 95100 Catania, Italy


A method to measure the amount of the surface area of cheese slices occupied by gas holes was developed to reflect the relative gas production among different cheeses. A digital camera mounted on a copy stand with lighting was used to make digital images of each slice of cheese. A commercial digital image analysis software program was used and an algorithm was written to measure the area of the image of the cheese slice occupied by holes. The image was cropped and scanned to determine which color channel produced the best image contrast. The MATLAB program allowed the user to eliminate mechanical openness or false holes and then to scan the image to produce a percent distribution of pixels in the image as a function of pixel intensity. The user then determined a threshold value to differentiate pixels that were in holes from those representing areas with no holes. The percentage of the total surface area occupied by holes was calculated. The coefficient of variation of the method ranged from 2.43% with gas holes of about 1% of the surface of the cheese slice to a coefficient of variation of 0.92% with gas holes of about 6.8% of the surface area of the cheese slice. Examples of applications of this method are given for Emmental, Ragusano, and Cheddar cheeses. The method can be used as a tool in research studies to correlate the amount of gas production with manufacturing condi-tions or as a quality control tool in cheese manufacturing.

Keywords: image analysis, gas production, mechanical openness

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D. M. Barbano

Prof. Northeast Dairy Food Research Center, Department of Food Science, Cornell University (USA)