Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of an ongoing series. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.
“Up to now, the fact we don’t have a national animal ID and traceability system has not kept us out of export markets,” says Thad Lively, a former U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) executive. “On the other hand, we are extremely vulnerable to unforeseen developments that could put us at a severe competitive disadvantage.”
Related: When it comes to traceability, time is money — and animal welfare
Lively, who at the time was USMEF senior vice president for trade access, was speaking at this year’s annual conference of the National Institute of Animal Agriculture (NIAA). The meeting focused on the need for a standardized national livestock identification and traceability system, one more comprehensive than the current mandatory Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program.
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“If you look at the major beef trading countries around the world, the U.S. stands out as a country that hasn’t taken steps to implement a relatively robust approach to traceability,” Lively says.
Related: Full circle: Cattle ID and traceability
His comments echo observations of the Comprehensive Feasibility Study: U.S. Beef Cattle Identification and Traceability Systems released early in 2018 that was conducted by World perspectives Inc. (WpI). It was commissioned by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) as part of the Beef Industry Long Range plan.
“… Among top exporting countries, nationally significant traceability systems are the norm,” according to the WpI study. “This is not to say that U.S. product quality suffers compared to other top exporters; nor is it fair to state that the U.S. is at a competitive disadvantage on the export market without a system … the point is that traceability systems are becoming a global norm. Going forward, it remains to be seen how the development of this norm impacts the U.S. position as a leading global beef exporter.”
With the exception of the U.S., Lively explains, the top 10 beef-exporting countries in the world have traceability systems. Most are mandatory, requiring individual animal ID and the use of ear tags, applied before cattle leave the birth premises.
Most require recording movement throughout the individual animal’s life. In every case, data are held in a central database, be it private, public-private or government.
Along with the U.S., the top 10 beef exporters are: Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the European Union, Uruguay, paraguay, Argentina and Mexico.
The EU endeavors to advocate Farm to Table movement on European Beef and Lamb.Food safety is ensured by EU legal system of animal Traceability and identification, allowing transparency along the supply chain.