Feed Lot

SEP-OCT 2018

Feedlots and cow/calf operations in the beef industry who feed 500 or more has annually on grains and concentrates; maintain 500 or more beef cows; backgrounder, stocker/grower, preconditioner; veterinarian, nutritionist, consultant

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TRACEABILITY 10 FEED•LOT September/October 2018 public-private funding enables Cat- tle Trace to subsidize the cost of ear tags. Those participating in the project can purchase tags at $1 each, compared to the $2.50 regular price. "If the project works, and is expanded to everyone, the cost of tags should come down with vol- ume," says Teagarden. "We like to think we've devel- oped a system that will prove work- able and answer questions people have about traceability," adds Tea- garden. "You can compare disease traceability to insurance. You don't want to make a claim, but you need that protection in a catastrophe." The Cattle Trace project ad- dresses two additional primary concerns of producers – confiden- tiality of information and cost. Those leery of the government controlling information can be as- sured the Cattle Trace project is set up as a separate entity to keep and maintain the database. It is that en- tity that will develop the protocols as to how and when health officials can access the data. "Public health officials have to have access in a disease outbreak for this to be an effective system," says Teagarden. "But it is not wide open." In addition, the minimal data collected does not include produc- er information. Teagarden credits producers' increasing comfort with technol- ogy with increased acceptance of the tracing concept. Some players already have ideas about ways to make the system enhance their op- eration, by using the data collection and reading technology for inven- tory management, or feedyard and carcass performance information. Others see potential for animal health monitoring, such as being able to flag an animal as having been treated for disease, and en- suring withdrawal times are met. To address the cost issue, the FEEDLOT FOCUS Beef Supply Chain Traceability Could Boost Value TRACEABILITY... from previous page BY NICOLE LANE ERCEG Talk about a national beef trace- ability system in the U.S. might seem like a broken record. It's been discussed often, but no efficient structure yet encompasses the entire supply chain. Advances in technology and evolved consumer buying trends might breathe new life into the idea. As more beef sells under brand- ed programs, consumers expect a promise with each purchase, from cooking performance to flavor and guarantees about how the meat was produced. Brands may be forced to verify additional marketing claims to maintain consumer trust. According to the National Meat Case Audit 2015 , nearly all beef at retail sells under a brand name, jumping from 51% branded in 2010 to 97 % in 2015 . With a sea of brands now vying for attention in the meat case, consumers buy their beef based on brand loyalty and label guarantees. Mark McCully, vice president of production for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB ® ) brand, says a trace- ability system could have merit. "Traceability itself is not a mar- keting claim," he says. "However, I do believe it can be used in the fu- ture as a framework for identifying marketing claims that add value to beef products." The added information traceabil- ity could provide is the opportunity for branded beef, as McCully told the National Institute for Animal Agriculture earlier this year. The 2017 Power of Meat study showed nearly 70% of meat con- sumers want more information about a company's social, econom- ic, animal welfare and environmen- tal practices, and they are willing to pay for it. "We continue to see consumers looking for more assurances about products. As a brand that operates in a premium category, we believe scrutiny of our brand is probably even more rigid," McCully says. "There's an expectation, not just about how our product performs, but the social responsibility we have as a brand around the entire supply chain." While some labels make claims like sustainably-raised, humane- ly-raised or locally-sourced, ver- ification and even definitions of these terms depends entirely on the brand's production chain. Vague assurances without distinct stan- dards lose their value in the con- sumer's mind. A consistent traceability frame- work could help verify those claims. Combine quality products with verified assurances and the pull-through demand could benefit the entire industry. "I believe the economics will support traceability," says McCully. "Certified Angus Beef is an exam- ple of how consumer-driven, pull- through demand can support the economics of verification. The key with traceability will be designing a system that fits today's current pace of business." It's not just domestic consumers

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