A general agreement that a U.S. cattle identification and traceability system should be mandatory with a goal of 100 percent compliance was reached by more than 200 industry leaders attending the 2005 International Livestock Congress March 2-3 in Houston, Texas. The group, consisting of cattlemen, academics, trade associations, industry service providers, government representatives, and international guests, agreed that the system should be electronic with limited and controlled access to data by governments, as well as begin with the birth of calves and extend to packing plants, and should initially focus on providing the necessary information to contain animal health crises.
Following presentations outlining animal identification and traceability systems in seven countries (Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Uruguay, The Netherlands, and the U.S.), six “cluster” breakout groups received background information and instructions from Dr. Gary C. Smith of Colorado State University. Dr. Smith described ten differing “purposes” for implementing animal identification and traceability systems, and outlined a method for characterizing systems (first described by USDA Economic Research Service) that provides for delineation of the depth, breadth, and precision of animal identification and traceability systems. Depth is “how far forward or backward” in the marketing chain that traceability is maintained; breadth is the “amount” of information required to be collected by the system to be effective; and precision is the “degree of assurance” with which the tracing system can “pin-point” movement of a particular food product or its characteristics—the amount of verification that is required to instill confidence in the effectiveness of the traceability system.
Cluster groups then met to develop “recommendations” for (a) international standardization, (b) marketplace expectations and economics association with animal traceability systems, (c) public versus private ownership of traceability data, (d) provisions for implementation of new traceability systems, (e) focus and definition of a country’s first effort to develop an identification, traceability, and verification system, and (f) communication with stakeholders in an identification and traceability system. Dr. John Paterson of Montana State University then summarized panel consensus recommendations and conclusions. Lastly, participants heard from representatives of McDonald’s, USDA and academia on current issues associated with animal identification and traceability capabilities of countries.
Generally, international participants expressed that other countries perceive the U.S. beef production industry as progressive and receptive to implementation of new technologies that improve beef quality and safety. Nonetheless, participants at ILC concurred that, in general, the U.S. has fallen behind the rest of the world in adopting a strong identification and traceability system. Although some disagreement among individual participants was apparent, cluster groups conveyed general agreement that a U.S. cattle identification and traceability system should be mandatory with 100 percent compliance as the goal, should be electronic with limited and controlled access to data by governments, should begin with the birth of calves and extend to packing plants, and should initially focus on providing the necessary information to contain animal health crises. Required data fields for purposes of controlling animal health issues would include information on animal ID, premises ID and tracking information concerning animal movement in relation to time.
Participants further supported the notion that implementation of a new U.S. animal identification and traceability system should be confirmed and audited by a third party. The system also should provide many additional fields for data entry that allows private and confidential information to be added for purposes of marketing and product differentiation; such information, though, also would necessarily be subjected—on a voluntary basis—to third party process verification for compliance with production management, cattle age, or any other parameter that might be included as marketing and labeling criteria with final products.
Supported in part by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and managed by the International Stockman’s Educational Foundation, under the guidance of Chairman Russell Cross, PhD, the event also featured animal identification and traceability service providers who displayed their wares at a “trade show” that ILC participants reviewed during a reception Wednesday evening, and 25 international students from 19 universities and eight countries were recognized as ILC fellows (supported by the Vivian L. Smith Foundation) during the meeting. Dr. Elsa Murano of Texas A&M University and Robert “Bob” Funk of Oklahoma were also inducted into the International Stockmen’s Hall of Fame at ceremonies held during the Congress.
The International Stockmen’s Educational Foundation