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, TX.
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
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. Smith described ten differing "purposes" for
implementing animal identification and traceability systems, and
outlined a method for characterizing systems (first described by the
USDA Economic Research Service) that provides for delineation of the
depth, breadth, and precision of animal identification and traceability
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
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. That information, though, would 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 Chairman
Russell Cross, PhD, the event also featured animal identification and
traceability service providers who displayed their wares at a trade
show. Twenty-five 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. — WLJ