Study: Beef Industry Driven ID System Beneficial to Producers

A study has found that implementing a U.S. beef cattle identification and traceability system has promising benefits for cattle producers. This steer at the Nogales border crossing in Mexico has multiple methods of identification, including a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag.  ( Wyatt Bechtel )

A new feasibility study released on the adoption of a beef cattle identification and traceability system shows benefits to U.S. cattle raisers.

During the Cattlemen’s College at the annual Cattle Industry Convention in Phoenix a report was given on the recently released Comprehensive Feasibility Study: U.S. Beef Cattle Identification and Traceability Systems. The study was conducted by World Perspectives, Inc. as part of the Beef Industry Long Range Plan for 2016-2020.

The study reiterates that stakeholders in the U.S. beef industry realize the issue of traceability and identification needs to be addressed, says David Gregg, consulting projects manager World Perspectives.

Results from the study were gathered by surveying more than 600 beef industry members. Further interviews were held with 90-plus beef industry stakeholders, across all sectors to get a more in-depth pulse for potential adoption.

Here are a few results gathered from the surveys:

  • 62% of producers support the idea that information (generated by an animal identification and traceability system) should be made available to government entities in the event of a disease outbreak.
  • 57% of producers support animal identification at the ranch of origin.
  • 49% of producers support the idea that information (generated by an animal identification and traceability system) should be stored in an easily retrievable format.
  • 46% of producers support recording/recoverability of birth premise data at point of slaughter.

“The beef industry has the opportunity to lead the discussion on where we go from here in the animal ID and traceability space,” Gregg says.

Findings from the study indicate it would be nationally significant and economically efficient if anywhere from 45-90% of cattle were included in a traceability system. World Perspectives recommends an adoption rate goal of 68% for both the fed cattle supply and cow herd. This rate would both work for disease and export traceability.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture had similar findings in a 2011 analysis estimates 70% of livestock would need to be traceable to a premise of origin to effectively control a disease outbreak.

Additional information was gathered via:

  • 23 discussions with state cattle and beef associations.
  • Review of 20 previous academic or government studies.
  • Analyzing 15 years of data from demand modeling and economic projections.
  • Review of nine current identification systems in other countries utilizing interviews with foreign industry association and government officials.

A national identification system wouldn’t need to be government mandated, it could work on a voluntary level similar to the U.S. Process Verified Program. Identification and traceability also wouldn’t have to all be through electronic tagging systems like radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, either. It could be technology neutral using a variety of identification systems.

Technology is always changing so it would be difficult to single out one method, says Dave Juday, senior analyst for World Perspectives.

Traceability could be premise identification, individual animal identification using different tags or group/lot identification.

It has been argued for a number of years that in order to compete internationally the U.S. needs a beef traceability system. Currently, 61% of global beef exports comes from countries with traceability systems. The U.S. and India (the majority of Indian beef comes from water buffalo) are the largest beef producers without any traceability and identification system.

“It would absolutely be a tool in the tool kit for our trade negotiators,” Juday says. “When other major exporters sit down now they can say they have traceability standards and the United States does not.”

Domestically it would also be beneficial with more consumers interested in where their food comes from.

Read the entire 87 page study.