Traceability discussion continue to address animal health and safety concerns
Denver, Colo. – “Traceability is more than just a term,” commented Leanne Saunders of IMI Global. “There are many facets.”
Traceability, continued Saunders, encompasses a large array of information that has wide-reaching potential.
“We have to think about the breadth of the system – or the amount of information – and the depth of the system, or how far back the data extends and what level of precision we can live with,” Saunders said. “We have beat this topic up in the past 20 years.”
Saunders mediated a panel of experts in traceability at the 2013 International Livestock Congress, held in Denver, Colo. in conjunction with the National Western Stock Show.
“Almost every country around the world has some degree of traceability,” commented Mark Gustafson of JBS. “In my opinion, Australia has the most sophisticated traceability program of all of our competition in the marketplace.”
He explained that 30 years ago, the country had the same discussion that U.S. producers are currently engaging in, until the government stepped in and told producers it was not a voluntary program and they would be responsible for incurring the cost.
“They are serious,” said Gustafson. “If it isn’t identified, it is not even about to go into commerce in Australia – it has zero value.”
He further continued that while Canada’s identification system is great, tracing back has proven to be difficult. In the U.S., the opposite problem exists, where our ability to trace back is robust, but identification systems are lacking.
“It is the U.S. and India that are struggling to come up with a system,” he added. “They are shocked that the U.S. doesn’t have the most robust system in the world because they know that we are always on the cutting edge of technology.”
Gustafson also asked what constitutes trace back.
“When we talk to our customers, it is very interesting to ask what they mean by traceability,” he said. “Some say back to the feedlot. Is it really necessary to trace the animal all the way back to the ranch?”
At the same time, Gustafson also said that if the competitive marketplace demands traceability, it will appear.
“If the Japanese require under 20-month cattle, there is a premium and a system developed,” he said. “If the Europeans demand non-hormone treated cattle at a premium, we have traceability.”
When a deliverable premium exists, he said, robust programs emerge.
“People have gotten more complacent since animal diseases went away,” he added. “The traceability system we have is a good start, but if we can’t do this on a voluntary basis, the next animal disease outbreak will force us into a program, and it’s something we might not like.”
“Right now, we are going down a path where states will develop individual systems,” commented Rick Stott of AgriBeef. “We have to deal with half of the 50 states, so that means I am going to have to move cattle with 25 databases that have different requirements and demands from regulators. If any of you believe that will happen, I have a bridge in Arizona for sale.”
Stott noted that it is absurd to create 50 systems in the country, especially if inter-state trade is a concern.
Currently, Stott said he has a low opinion of the currently federal program.
“The current indication is not very good,” he said. “If there is a big disease outbreak, we are going to be stuck with an inefficient and ineffective system.”
“I think we are making progress, but we have a lot of work to do,” Stott commented. “I’m optimistic that we have some movement and leaders that wills to up to make this decision go forward.”
Gustafson further said, “There is benefit to a voluntary program with robust control that we can use for marketing and trade access. Really, I think the whole industry is coming together to have put a traceability system in place.”