12:29 PM

Snack Maker's RFID Trial Supports National Livestock Registry

Jack Link's Beef Jerky last week said it completed the first of a four-phase radio frequency identification project that could eventually enable it to tap into a national database registry for livestock.

Jack Link's Beef Jerky last week said it completed the first of a four-phase radio-frequency identification project that could eventually enable it to tap into a national database registry for livestock. The databases, such as the Holstein Association USA, a nonprofit consortium of 35,000 dairy producers, are supported by a program through the United States Department of Agriculture designed to monitor livestock for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad-cow disease.

The USDA in August awarded $11.6 million to states and American Indian tribal nations to advance the national animal identification initiative. The funds will be used to initiate programs to collect intra- and interstate animal movement records electronically; integrate data collection technologies at livestock marketing facilities and processing plants; track livestock imported from other countries; and electronically collect animal movement data as livestock are loaded on and off trucks and trailers.

The initiative picked up stream in the U.S. after a Washington state cow was identified on Dec. 23 as having mad-cow disease. Monte Bordner, owner of Bordner Farms, a cattle ranch in Sturgis, Mich., doesn't expect a national tracking system until 2006. Michigan, however, already has more than 10,000 heard of cattle registered in its animal tracking pilot program as it attempt to control a tuberculosis epidemic among livestock. "In the last couple of weeks, the government and participating organizations have made tags available that I can put my herd ID and the federal number on, which now eliminates the need for two tags," Bordner says. Companies such as Jack Link's Beef Jerky will eventually have access to that information through a government database. The information is collected by technology such as RFID tags. The objective is to track meat lots back to their origin on the farms.

Its may seem far in the future, but the United States will eventually require animal identification as part of doing business, says Karl Paepke, VP of operations at Jack Link's Beef Jerky. That way, the company can automatically track ingredients from receipt through processing as they're turned into products. "We may not have the name of the farm where the cow originated, but we will track the lot number from our supplier and they will have to track it back to where the animal came from," he says. "I think animal identification is coming."

Return to main story, Beyond The RFID Mandate

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