Responding to consumers critical for growth of cattle industry

Traceability is vital to the industry’s long-term sustainability
By Ted Power, President , ViewTrak Technologies

Livestock producers all over the world understand the positive impact tracking and sharing animal data can have on the marketplace. They know that, due to recent “food scares,” consumers want to know the food they are going to feed their families is safe. They want to know where it comes from, how it was raised, and what chemicals or drugs were used to create it.

Not all farmers and ranchers are on board with the trend. Even though the use of RFID ear tags to identify cattle is mandatory, in some areas of Western Canada, where most of the cattle herd exists, compliance ranges near 50 per cent. As a result, the cattle industry is failing to take advantage of growth opportunities by giving consumers what they want: reliable information about the history of their beef.

To increase profits, improve the world perception of the quality of our beef, and expand domestic and international markets, the movement toward industry-wide traceability must be taken seriously. We have all heard it many times before. We live in a global market and we must do what the world market demands.

This is why the beef industry must learn something from Canada’s pork and lamb producers.

Canada’s pork industry is one of the few in the world to offer a nation-wide traceability system – PigTrace – a system that provides a competitive advantage as consumers look for verifiable pork products. PigTrace also helps producers safeguard their businesses and bottom lines during a market disruption caused by food safety or animal health issues.

The Canadian Lamb Producers Cooperative is also creating a system for true traceability of meat from the farm, through processing, to the retailer, and right to the consumers’ plates.The system will allow the lamb industry to grow, gaining a stronger foothold in growing international markets. Most of all, the grading system is increasing farm cash receipts, which is every farmer and rancher’s goal.

That’s great news for the lamb and pork folks, but what does it mean for cattle producers?

Despite the size and significance of the cattle industry, true traceability throughout the supply chain is still a distant dream. Without it, the industry is missing out on an enormous opportunity for growth that the pork industry has already seized and the lamb producers will be unveiling soon.

For Canadian cattle, the multi-billion dollar world export market will remain largely beyond reach without consistent and reliable traceability. It’s only a matter of time before all retailers demand the full history of birth and care from producers through to processors and packers. A&W and Loblaws are already advertising heavily about the traceability of their products and getting premium pricing for them. Costco sells grass fed, hormone-free beef for 50 per cent more than regular beef. McDonald’s, Canada’s largest retailer of beef recently announced it has chosen Canada, over Australia and Europe, to launch a pilot project to meet their end goal of serving only “sustainable beef” across their entire global empire. The more information we can provide about cattle genetics, feed management, and medical treatment to consumers, the more in-demand Canadian cattle will be and the more profitable everyone will become.

Traceability provides for the kind of collaborative economics that is vital for the industry’s long-term sustainability and growth. Boosting revenues and profitability is a direct result of traceability and improved beef quality. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

But tracking has to flow throughout the supply chain-from lineage, to history of care, to production, and processing-to provide fast, credible, accurate, and consistent data to everyone. Integration is the only way to provide the kind of high quality and credible information consumers demand — and producers need.

As President of a technology company, I can tell you that the value of technology grows exponentially when used cooperatively among all the members of the sector, for the benefit of all members of the sector. For an industry known for its independence and rugged individualism, maybe it’s time to start acting more like sheep.

Ted Power is President of ViewTrak Technologies Inc., the most widely used tracking and trading software in North America, supporting over 50 million head of livestock worldwide annually, and helping producers respond to growing industry and consumer demand for high quality, safe, and responsibly produced products. ViewTrak produces China’s number one pork grading tool and is a partner in the Canadian Lamb Cooperative Grading Program.

This article provided by Troy Media Marketplace, http://www.troymedia.com.

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