Implementation is underway and the United States will have a coordinated, national system for animal identification in place by the end of this decade.  That was the message that Glenn Slack, president of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, presented to an international audience last week.

Slack spoke at a traceability conference during SIAL, the largest international food exhibition dedicated to the North American food-distribution industry held every other year in Montreal, Canada. He said USDA recently confirmed that 45 states have premises registration capability in place and approximately 55,000 premises have been registered. “That’s a small percentage of premises, however significant progress is evident when comparing these figures to a year earlier,” he noted.

Slack said that confidentiality concerns about data that will be collected and funding are being hammered out, but he predicted that such issues would be resolved. The industry, he said, is largely in agreement on the end goal and is determined to ensure rapid farm-animal traceability.

USDA animal-identification program is focused on protecting the health of the U.S. animal population.

Slack added that the foodservice and retail companies' (such as McDonald's and Wal-Mart) desire for traceability makes a comprehensive traceability system appear inevitable, thus highlighting the need for on-farm identification programs to continue progress.

Also speaking at the conference, Daniel Chaisemartin, representing OIE – the World Organization for Animal Health– said the push is on across the globe to establish standardized systems for animal traceability.  “Identification and traceability are considered key tools in the sphere of animal health, public health and trade.” 

Chaisemartin reported on results of a survey among OIE’s 167 member countries and said an international working group is being formed this year.  He said that OIE will provide member countries with specialized technical assistance to facilitate the design and implementation of animal-identification and traceability systems.

Representatives from France and Canada also discussed animal traceability at the conference and industry and government officials from Quebec discussed identity preservation in grains and processed vegetables.

Some 14,000 individuals were estimated to attend the conference, representing 80 countries.  They included processors, manufacturers, producers, wholesalers, distributors, importers, exporters, brokers, hotel and restaurant representatives, caterers, food service representatives, retailers and media.    

National Institute of Animal Agriculture, Pork magazine