With the help of an Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) grant, SAIT Polytechnic will soon house a certification laboratory to evaluate ear tag and ear-tag reader technology.

Currently, ear tag manufacturers ship their tags to International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) labs in the EU for testing and certification. However, the ICAR temperature specifications do not meet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requirements. Therefore, ICAR-approved tags must also undergo CFIA certification.

This two-step certification process has deterred industry from exploring or supporting alternative ear tag concepts. The lab will meet both ICAR and CFIA tag standards and requirements, combining the certification process within one location.

Bob Davies, SAIT researcher and ICAR lab project lead, says SAIT is privileged to receive this grant from ALMA to build a unique facility that will address the deficiencies in the ICAR process with respect to Canadian performance requirements at the same time adding significant mass to SAIT’s already established applied research in RFID animal traceability.

Davies adds working with international standards bodies will allow SAIT to advocate for Canada’s traceability requirements, contribute to the advancement of traceability technology, and help ensure that Canada’s exemplary safety and quality standards for meat products are maintained in national and international markets.

Davies says the lab will be an information hub, increasing the knowledge and awareness of traceability standards, testing and new technology. SAIT will welcome producers and other stakeholders to visit the lab, speak to staff and learn about the testing process. The location will also expedite certification for tag manufacturers and potentially increase industry support for traceability as tags proven to perform well in the cold Canadian climate become certified.

Gordon Cove, ALMA’s president and CEO, sees the SAIT lab as a strategic investment. Cove says traceability in our meat and livestock industry is a reality and this project will help further the traceability dialogue, adding a national ICAR lab will improve the industry’s competitiveness globally, while streamlining the development and approval of ICAR- and CFIA-approved tags.

Cove says the benefits of a combined ICAR-CFIA certification lab are many. As the only ICAR certification lab in North America, it will add capacity in Alberta as it serves the needs of provincial, national and international businesses. He adds the livestock and meat industry will see economic gains with improved tag retention. Conversely, reliable traceability will enhance consumer confidence in Canadian meat products, increase industry’s profitability and sustainability, and reinforce Canada’s profile as an innovative research leader within the global community.

Source: Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development