Deborah Wilso

There are many levels of trace ability in processing plantsabroad. I will reference two plants, on two different continents. Geographically these two businesses. couldn't be further apart but their trace ability processes are fundamentally similar.

    Submitted by Deborah Wilson, Sr. Vice President BIXSCO Inc.


  •  A mid-sized packing plant (which processes 200 head per day).

  • Australia has an Animal Health trace ability system, similar to CCIA, called NLIS and they use a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag exactly as we do.

  • After the animal is harvested and the processing begins, the trace ability stays with the animal through the plant and continues all the way to the retailer's shelf.

  •  NLIS system tracks the animal until the tag is removed, then the plant's own internal system takes over; the data from the kill floor, the bone room and the packaging room all talk to each other and maintain the trace ability component. 

  • The plant is required by the Government to maintain this data for international marketing requirements and food safety.

  • Carcasses are tagged on each quarter with information including harvest date, carcass weight, detention-

 -information, grade and an internal tracking      number which is linked to the NLIS tag number.

  • A portion of this data is also transferred to the box label and travels with the product on the packaging to the retail outlet.


  • The plant is in Northern Ireland, is part of a large corporation with locations across the UK and processes between 400 -500 cattle per day.

  • The UK ear tag system is a mandatory system that uses a double visual tag system with a 15 digit tag number printed on them.

  • Sheep are required to use Electronic Identification (EID) tags but cattle are not, so these plants have to manually type in the number of each animal that crosses their floor.

  • This company uses a specialized in-house software system to track the data on the animals after the tags are removed, the tag number is again correlated to a kill number which is assigned by the plan. 

Both of these are excellent examples of how traceability can go beyond the live animal and provide authentic, meaningful information to consumers. While government regulated this in both examples above, the main driver was the domestic and international market for the implementation of the system.

It feeds into the reoccurring theme that consumers want to know where the food comes from and they want to be assured that what they are eating is safe. It really is a basic right to have access to that information.

Imagine restaurants and grocers having a sign that had each cut of beef on the menu/shelf along with the born, raised and killed information, clearly accessible and available to any inquiring customers. This is now required by law in all restaurants in France. The sheet could easily be updated when the supply changed based on the information provided by the processing plant on the product packaging.

No animal traceability system is or will be perfect, each country has very interesting and unique ideas on how it should look and what is required by the producers. Each country has producers who complain about their systems, the best we can do is work with what we have and learn from others.