Producers are embracing the benefits traceability using RFID

Recent events, especially the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalophy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease) in Europe and the U.S., and the recently introduced country of origin labeling requirements issued by many governments, have focused attention on traceability capabilities in the global meat sector.

The 2002 U.S. Farm Bill, the development of a European Food Authority and the "Beef Labeling Regulations" now being enforced in Australia and Japan are just some of the factors motivating ranchers and meat producers to adopt traceability implementation.

Bad publicity relative to tainted meat within the fast-food restaurant industry is motivating some of these organizations to implement strict tracking requirements and accountability from their meat suppliers. In the beef industry as in many others, private company requirements can have a greater effect than a governmental requirement.

Some of the benefits achievable through meat traceability systems include:

  • Prevention of theft and loss of livestock by clearly identifying animal ownership. Ranchers have a substantial amount of capital tied up in their beef herd and can be motivated to identify animals with marks that distinguish their cattle or other livestock from those belonging to others. This is especially true in regions where rancher’s co-op for cattle feed land.
  • Ranchers implementing traceability systems for live animals can establish prevention methods to stop the spread of animal diseases, and to track and identify healthy and unhealthy animals. While this certainly benefits the rancher’s organization from an internal perspective, this capability is becoming a requirement from many beef importing countries’ governments.
  • Up to date medical information on each animal such as vaccinations, feeding regimens and other vital information unique to that animal may increase its value. Ranchers who can prove through traceability that their herd possesses such value are more likely to be able to negotiate higher prices. In some cases, these ranchers will become the only suppliers to major global fast-food organizations as their requirements become stricter relative to meat traceability and accountability.