Beef industry launches new traceability program

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has gone into partnership with a private traceability company to beef up its database of cattle records.

The newly-announced Beef Information Exchange system (BIXs) and ViewTrak Technologies of Edmonton will form a new company capable of providing information on millions of cattle from birth to the consumer.

All information is attached to the individual animal’s electronic identification number distributed by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency. BIXs is separate from the CCIA program but enables producers to attach more information to that number and share it with designated customers.

Hubert Lau and Ted Power of ViewTrak believe anything can be traced, whether it is steel used to build oilfield equipment or consumer products such as beef.

“This new company will be the stewards of BIXs and collecting and sharing the valuable information for the benefits of the whole industry and for consumers who want to know more about their beef,” said Lau, who will be chief executive officer of the new company.

This kind of information could also improve the Canadian beef brand where information is available to back up marketing claims.

Food companies such as Loblaw’s, A & W and McDonald’s are launching programs that look for specific attributes in the beef they sell. The data housed by BIXs can connect them more easily with suppliers who can meet those specifications.

“Soon all retailers will demand full animal history or growth and care,” Lau said.

The formation of BIXs goes back to 2008 when the CCA wanted to find ways to add more value to Canadian beef.

About 1,000 producers are participating in the program. They regularly submit information to the confidential database, which includes 3.4 million birth records and more than three million records on carcass quality, said Rob McNabb, CCA general manager.

Some producers have included health records and other attributes that could fit into a specific beef marketing scheme.

“Those numbers are not insignificant because they have provided us with the means of testing the system properly,” he said.

“If we can supply 50 percent of the cattle that are in system, we will be on the right track,” he said.

“The number of producers won’t be as critical as the number of cattle records that are in system providing the information.”

ViewTrak produces China’s leading pork grading tool and is a partner in the Canadian Lamb Cooperative Grading Program. The company also created a web-based software program for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture that allows enrolled producers to make specific marketing claims about the quality of their beef.

ViewTrak will provide capital to improve and expand BIXs under the partnership agreement. The board of the new company will have five directors: two each from CCA and ViewTrak and one acceptable to both ViewTrak and CCA.

BIXs staff will continue working for the new entity, which will revert to the CCA if the partnership is unable to build BIXs into the business it envisions.

The objectives of the new entity include:

•Better outcomes for producers to better manage their businesses, enhance their breeding and marketing programs, and increase the overall value of their product leading to increased profits and competitiveness.

•Better sharing of information that benefits the entire supply chain and consumers.

•Ability to respond more effectively to food safety emergencies and reduce market disruptions.

•Satisfied consumers who are more confident in their beef supply, more interested in buying beef and who have more choices about how much they pay for their beef according to the characteristics they value.

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