Beef tracking system put to work

EDMONTON — The technology is out there to rebuild the Canadian beef industry, but not much is happening.

“There are a lot of things we could be collecting on beef that frankly we do a terrible job on,” said Mike McMorris of the web based tracking system BIO.

He called Canada’s traceability system a step in the right direction to gather and share information, but it is not doing enough.

“We don’t collect much data in the beef industry compared to other industries, and that is to our detriment,” he told the Livestock Gentec annual conference held in Edmonton Oct. 13-14.

BIO offers data packages using current tagging system numbers to provide information on herds or flocks from the farm to the food system. The 20-year-old producer co-operative started in Ontario and has expanded throughout North America.

One family owned and operated business in Ontario is using BIO technology from its cow-calf division to the beef it sell at its own stores as well as others in the Toronto area.

Cory Van Groningen of VG Meats said embarrassment-free entertaining is the major driver of meat sales because no one wants to serve a tough piece of beef. Part of his company’s business plan is to offer a tenderness guarantee on every package of beef sold.

It starts at the farm, where the company raises 400 cow-calf pairs and works with 40 other area farmers to sell better beef.

“If it is not good, your name is mud,” he said. “We have pretty much tested every one of these carcasses to know what kind of steak you are going to get.”

Traceability is not a cost for VG but a way to share information and improve the product.

Every animal has a Canadian Cattle Identification Agency ear tag with a unique number, which unifies all the data the company collects so that it knows how every animal lives and how its carcass graded.

It uses the BioLink system in its abattoir to record age, weight, sex, tag score and added information such as liver abscesses. Bar codes are attached to the primal cuts.

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