Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Canadian beef traceability found lacking

Canada’s beef-industry traceability program comes up short in a study comparing it with the National Livestock Identification System in Australia.

Authors Martin Gooch, Delia Bucknell and Grain Stewart say bluntly at the beginning of their report that “compared to Australia’s NLIS, Canada does not have an effective beef traceability system at an industry level.”

Canada has so far borne all of the costs of beginning a traceability system, but has gained few of the potential benefits.

“Compared to NLIS, Canada’s systems and capabilities do not offer the same proactive value,” the report says.

The Canadian system needs many improvements including, the inclusion of more information, standardization across Canada and enforcement.-

The various provincial systems don’t all report movements or transfers of ownership; only Quebec is enforcing both as mandatory requirements.

The goal is to make movement tracking mandatory at the federal level by next year, but this study says it’s “unlikely to be introduced before 2018.

“These and other factors have created what could be described as a culture of inertia,” the report says. As a result, “considerable amounts of funds (have been) invested in the development of systems and practices that did not achieve their stated goals."

Much could be gained by adding on-farm information, including weights, medications and feeding regimes.

The report notes that the Beef Farmers of Ontario’s Beef Quality Assurance Program has many of the features that would return more value for farmers and the industry.

It is, however, a voluntary program with low adoption by smaller-scale producers and by cow-calf operations.

“The estimated price of on farm traceability (weigh bars, reader, and software) ranges from $4,000 to 6,000 dollars. For comparative purposes, the Australian KoolCollect software, which was described in the NLIS case study, ranges from $600 to $3,200, depending on the features required by the user. This does not include the cost of weigh bars and

Canada’s system was apparently set up mainly to assure export markets that Canada could handle an outbreak of a disease such as BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy).

It did not address the opportunity to make many efficiency and productivity gains, such as genetic performance, assurance of food safety by tracking drug withdrawal periods and links between management and meat value.

The report was prepared by the Value Chain Management Centre with funding support from the federal and provincial governments.