A pilot program at Michigan State University may soon allow consumers to learn more about the exact animal and farm their beef came from with a quick scan of the package’s barcode.

University animal science associate professor Dan Buskirk says the next step in animal traceability is to extend knowledge about locally grown beef past the processor to the end consumer at the point of purchase.

Under the pilot program, consumers at the grocery store will be able to use their smart phone to scan a barcode to fully trace their beef from farm to plate.

Michigan adopted a mandatory livestock tracing program in 2007 requiring every cow to have a radio frequency identification ear tag prior to leaving its original farm. The program tracks the cattle as they move from the farm at which they were born to the processor.

The pilot program will allow consumers to determine how ‘local’ their meat is for themselves. The university team is working with small and medium-sized food processors to perfect the technology and identify challenges. Buskirk said smaller cattle producers will benefit most from the added connection with end consumers.

The primary concern with the new barcode system will be applying the same barcode to several different cuts of meat.