Michigan State University Uses RFID For Tracking Beef

US - A new pilot beef traceability programme being conducted at Michigan State University (MSU) is successfullly connecting customers with farms. A quick barcode scan with your smart phone can tell you the exact animal RFID number, grade, age, breed of the animal, certification, etc, and the local farm picture where your steak originated using the ScoringAg.com database and labelling system.
calendar icon 8 July 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

With the new FDA-FSMA rule going into effect, on this July 3, 2011 where all food, feed, ingredients, and beverages have to be labelled and tracked, and data stored for two years if a recall is ever necessary, Buskirk's timing has been of the essence. MSU researcher Dan Buskirk wanted to continue improving the system by continuing the traceability of information with data exchange beyond just the processor and/or the retailer for added value to the consumer and restaurants.

MSU animal science associate professor Dan Buskirk said that translating RFID ear tags to a barcode enabled database, then to pieces or retail packages of beef that can be labelled with a I-phone readable 2D barcode, and tracing it back to the farm and the individual animal became possible with ScoringAg.com. The UNIX web-based database system has had 2D Data Matrix phone/camera technology since 2004. The ScoringAg database was also successful in Brazil in tracking large cuts of beef to the EU and is now being considered in Africa .

Mr Buskirk, who has been working with the Michigan RFID tagging programme since its inception, was looking for a way to expand its value when fellow animal science assistant professor Jason Rowntree began working on a new project to utilize MSU-raised beef cattle in MSU restaurants and cafeterias. It quickly became clear that MSU Culinary Services, a department of MSU Residential and Hospitality Services, a partner in the project that oversees the food products used throughout campus, was interested in not only locally sourced beef, but also the potential for full traceability of beef from the farm to the plate.

The successful pilot for the local beef project will also serve as the pilot programme for Dr. Dan Buskirk and his MSU team to begin putting the pieces in place to trace beef all the way to the consumer and for the required FSMA rule from FDA. He is working with William Kanitz, President of ScoringAg and its team members Donald Tomkinson of ATS for hardware labeling equipment and Robert Brubacher, cattle expert and Representative of ScoringAg from Cheboygan MI to perfect the technology of data collection and identify any other challenges for implementing it for Smart phone usage.

Mr Buskirk says this RFID and barcode labeling project is going to help us do - refine the technology and refine the methods we use to be able to track beef through the entire system for the new food safety requirements and for the consumer.

The researchers now know that consumers will be able to scan the barcode at a kiosk in the grocery store or restaurant, or by individual package or by using a Smartphone application (app). The information on the package also can be retrieved by entering the SSI-EID traceback code from a home computer using the food search engine, at www.traceback.com or also any Smartphone app. or by taking a photo of the 2D barcode, this app links the consumer to information about the farm of origin, product, its management practices and similar types of information. The database used for this application is ScoringAg's UNIX system. The test with harvested animals and barcode labeling equipment at the packing plant was very successful.

Mr Buskirk thinks the consumer benefits because they currently look at a package that says local and they don't know what that really means. How local is it? Where did it really come from? With what we're doing, they can see exactly where the beef came from, exactly what farming practices were used on the farm, whether they were grass-fed, grain-fed, or hormone free cattle, and see a picture of that animal or farm with certifications that are currently happening there.

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