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Beef Traceability

Traceability from the farm to fork is the objective laid down at the very beginning of traceability implementation in the animal sector. From this perspective, ATQ and MAPAQ carried out a first traceability project in the meat marketing chain.

Study Period

From December 2010 to October 2011, a project was carried out to develop a picture of beef traceability in Quebec "from the slaughterhouse to the retailer". 

Sample Characteristics

Industry stakeholders, through a working committee, participated in the identification of objectives and in the establishment of general directions for sector's traceability.

This effort will have made it possible to identify the main steps for traceability, possible technical constraints, and possible solutions to ensure beef traceability from the slaughterhouse to the retailer.

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Thirty-two companies were involved in this project: 13 slaughterhouses (including 3 federal and 10 provincial), 6 processors (fresh meat cutting), 9 distributors and 4 retailers. 

Existing Traceability Practices

Twenty of the participating companies considered to have the required traceability tools and data, either through computerized or manual (paper files) information management. Several of the surveyed companies, in particular the largest ones, seemed already benefit from the advantages offered by meat traceability, in particular for developing new markets, supporting quality control, increasing effectiveness of operations, and managing issues, including recalls. In these companies, the decision to implement some level of traceability is more a business strategy than an obligation.

Two Challenges Identified

Traceability requires product identification and product movement monitoring between suppliers and customers. Significant difficulties were identified in the companies surveyed regarding product identification and the maintenance of a link between inputs (animal carcasses or meat pieces) and outputs (various cuts of meat) at slaughtering, processing and distribution levels. The complexity of a company's operations can cause a significant challenge for traceability implementation, whatever the size of the company.

20111205---Photo-detaillant-modifee---MDProduct traceability implementation after slaughtering seems possible and realistic. However, it would require investments that need to be evaluated on an individual basis and based on information considered to be essential for traceability that will have to be recorded and shared among the various stakeholders of the sector.

Next Steps

The concept of traceability from the farm to fork was referred to on several occasions and represents one of the objectives of the government and animal sectors. On their side, consumers wish to be reassured on the quality of the products and want to know the production methods used. Thus, it seems reasonable to continue work on a future project to find solutions that are specific and adapted to the realities of these companies and to carry out tests in the field. Other steps will have to be made before traceability from the farm to fork becomes a reality.

Please consult the final report on the beef pilot project (pdf button 54 pages, 3,03 Mo) for more details on the results obtained (document available in French only).

This project was made possible through financial support from the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) programm.  This Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) programm is managed in Quebec by the intermediary organizations, Conseil pour le développement de l'agriculture du Québec (CDAQ) and Fonds de développement de la transformation alimentaire inc (FDTA).

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