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Is A Beefed Up Tracking System Needed?

How important is livestock traceability to you? As a cow/calf producer, auction mart owner, or feedlot owner are you in favour of a mandatory tracking system for livestock at every step from the farm gate through to slaughter? Would you be willing to pay a few cents more per head for this traceability if it gave Canadian beef a bit of an edge in international markets?

If you have any thoughts on these questions please send them along to Cattleman’s Corner. (My contact information is under the cartoon at the right hand side of the page).

The tracking and traceability issue was recently raised at the Alberta Beef Producers annual meeting in Calgary. Actually a motion, presented by Youngstownarea rancher Ed Curry, was passed by delegates, opposing the federal/ provincial plan to have a national mandatory livestock traceability system in place by 2011.

Curry says there is a national ear tag and tracking system (CFIA system) in place now, which enables a packer or meat inspector, or CFIA to trace the origins of a carcass back to the ranch where it was produced if there are any animal health or meat quality issues. So he isn’t convinced a mandatory tracking system, which scans and records each animal at auction marts and community pastures is necessary. Would this mandatory system also mean that a producer would need to scan and record tag numbers each time cattle changed pastures, or were moved from home pasture to rented pasture, or a grazing lease?

“When it comes to meat quality or food safety issues we have a system in place now, so why do we need even further tracking through the production system,” says Curry. “We don’t know the cost of this or who will pay for it, and the advantage of doing it hasn’t been well explained to me. There has been no cost/benefit study done and until there is, I am not in favour.”

The resolution that passed at the ABP annual meeting, with little or no comment, will now go to the Alberta Beef Producer’s board of directors for consideration and if it has merit there, the sentiments of the resolution could be forwarded to provincial agriculture minister George Groeneveld.

The plan for this enhanced tracking or traceability system was hatched last July as federal and provincial agriculture ministers met in Ontario. The federal government is putting $20 million towards implementing the system “which will allow auction marts, assembly yards, fairs and exhibitions and privately managed community pastures to upgrade facilities to help in the identification and tracing of individual animals,” all by 2011.

The concept was endorsed by all provincial agriculture ministers, except Saskatchewan, but provincial beef associations in Western Canada have their own views on the matter.

Manitoba Cattle Producers supports the national traceability proposal, provided it doesn’t “impede or delay commerce,” does meet industry standards and keeps producer information confidential.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers, agrees with its provincial minister of agriculture that traceability is important, but this enhanced system is not needed at this time.

And in British Columbia, the BC Cattleman’s Association also agrees with the concept of a traceability or tracking system, but it doesn’t like the mandatory aspect of this federal plan. Voluntary programs work very nicely, they say.

Generally, the “mandatory” word bothers a lot of producers, and of course another sore point is that this plan was made without industry consultation. The other thing missing is details of what this proposal actually entails. How far does it go, how much will it cost, who will pay for it and will the benefits outweigh the costs?

Obviously there will be more to this story in the coming months.

Lee Hart Editor


The Beef Information Centre (BIC) has partnered with Costco Canada to launch a premium beef program that features only Canada Prime beef.

Canada Prime is the highest grade of beef Canada has to offer. Selected for most marbling, Canada Prime provides outstanding flavour, juiciness and tenderness. Less than two per cent of all Canadian graded beef in 2008 qualified to be of Canada Prime level.

Traditionally found at only the finest of restaurants, Costco’s Prime program is currently being tested in a number of strategically chosen Costco stores in western Canada with plans to roll out to additional locations nationally over the next six months.

Costco Canada has a long-standing commitment to Canadian AAA beef and is a market leader in the Canadian retail sector. All Costco outlets in Canada display the Canadian beef brand logo on-pack, and on the wall above the fresh meat case. With the new program in select Costco locations, the Canada Prime beef packages display the Prime designation in a specially designed logo, with the Canadian beef brand mark.

These initiatives, along with the new premium beef program, illustrates why Costco Canada leads the market in leveraging the value Canadian beef provides and the positive image Canadian beef has with Canadian consumers.


It’s been a long time since I’ve felt anything but sadness for the wild horses.

I was a veterinarian in the Idaho-Nevada-Oregon sagebrush country the year that Wild Horse Annie managed to make wild horses a government dependent. Virtually all the dire predictions of the outcome have come true.

Lack of common sense and lack of good management have led to overpopulation, resulting in an excess of wild horses (30,000 head) now being held under fence and cared for like domestic livestock or zoo animals. Despite dogged efforts to sell, auction, or give away these apparently unwanted equine, they continue to propagate profusely.

I don’t hold those well-intentioned/ misguided instigators like Wild Horse Annie responsible. We let them do it! They were ignorant of the consequences and never intended to take responsibility for the chaos they created anyway! Nor do I place blame on the BLM. They have been forced to care for land, maintain many thousands of unmanageable horses we dump in their lap. They are plant people, for cryin’ out loud, not the Fish & Game!

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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