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Range Beef Cow Symposium
December 9 - 11, 2003
Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds Events Center, Mitchell, NE

Traceback, verification and identification on the ranch: Big brother or best buddy?
Jack Whittier, Extension Beef Specialist, CSU

"The issue of individual animal identification for the goal of traceability isn’t going to go away. The train is on the track," said Jack Whittier, Extension beef specialist. "Why not use it for your own benefit?"
A national initiative to develop a U.S. Animal Identification Plan (USAIP) has the objective of providing food-animal traceability. Skeptical beef producers view USAIP as an intrusion and an inconvenience. Proponents say the ability to trace individual animals back through the production chain can be applied to disease surveillance, verification of product origin, food safety assurance, homeland security, value-added marketing and genetic selection for improved beef products.

According to Colorado State University (CSU) Extension beef specialist Jack Whittier, there is little doubt that U.S. beef producers are going to be asked to stand behind their practices and products more than ever before. A national system of individual animal identification (ID) is coming, and mandatory compliance seems likely. Whittier suggested that producers make the system work to their advantage.

"The issue of individual animal identification for the goal of traceability isn’t going to go away. The train is on the track," stated Whittier during the opening day of the 2003 Range Beef Cow Symposium XVIII. "Why not use it for your own benefit?"

According to Whittier, a national ID system can foster marketing opportunities for producers. He cited marketing programs, like Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB), as examples of where participating producers receive premiums resulting from verification and assurance initiatives.

Traceability also promises to improve access to foreign markets. Japan, a leading export market for U.S. beef, has implemented traceability for its own domestic meat products and favors application of a traceability system for meat it imports from other countries. Implementation of traceability in the Japanese import market may have up to a 6¢-per-pound value to the U.S. beef industry.

The events of recent years have shown how animal diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), can devastate markets in countries where such diseases have occurred. Whittier said a system of animal ID and traceability will improve animal disease surveillance programs for U.S. producers.

— by Troy Smith

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