News from the National Pork Board

Meat identification benefits entire industry

The ability to track and preserve identity of both animals and products is of growing importance in the areas of marketing, product safety, and disease control. The National Pork Board has recognized the need for cooperation throughout the meat production chain on this topic and has initiated a project that will retool pork tracking, identity preservation, identification, and uniform coding within the industry.

The objectives of this meat identification project are straightforward. By establishing a core group of representatives from meat and professional associations, retail groups, and government and regulatory agencies, the project seeks to define and describe the expanded scope for tracking, standardization, and coding in each of the following four key areas: production data, including all information flowing back to the producer; certification (eg, production, quality, safety, processing, genetics); epidemiology for disease control and safety (pre- and post-harvest); and retail nomenclature and coding.

Although this is a new initiative to address current and emerging concerns, the livestock industry has a long history in this area. In the early 1970's, the meat industry resolved to contend with the confusion at the retail meat counter. In 1973, industry experts introduced the Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards program, a consumer-oriented identification system that simplified and standardized the previously perplexing array of fresh meat cuts and their names.

In the face of new work conducted by the Uniform Code Council (UCC), the meat industry has an opportunity to identify significant information and data elements that go beyond product identity standards. In 1995, the UCC formed the Random Weight Perishables Work Group to develop a universally acceptable random weight coding and tracking process. This effort has brought about development of an expanded coding format that allows for 74 bits of information instead of the current 12 bits contained in a reduced code footprint. This code will have the capacity to hold information that could be used, for example, to track batch or lot number for tracability, variable count, "sell by" date, packer, or serial number. If this code format is designed properly, it could be invaluable to the meat industry in providing data that link key pieces of information about each individual meat item back through the marketing chain all the way to the producer.

Currently, working groups of industry, academic,and government professionals are focusing on all of these key areas, and will assist in the development of standard information collection for tracking and identification of animals and (or) product within these areas. The project began on October 1, 2001, and is scheduled for completion December 31, 2002. Swine health and safety are a significant component of this activity. Participating in the process are USDA agencies, including the Animaland Plant Health Inspection Serviceand the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Linking appropriate data collection and tracking throughout the marketing chain should enhance efforts to protect against the re-emergence of disease, aid monitoring of emerging disease, facilitate eradication programs, and support microbiological safety tracking.

To make a project like this work, communication and education will be required throughout the pork chain. It will take the expertise and input of everyone involved, from the production process to product sales, to identify key information required for expanded tracking, standardization, and coding. Everyone must cooperate to make this work. In turn, everyone will reap the benefits of a healthier, more consistent pork product.

For more information on the meat identi-fication standards project, contact Dr Eric Hentges, Director of Research at the NationalPork Board, at eric.hentges@

Revised swine care handbook available

All United States AASV members have receiveda revised version of the Swine Care Handbook, the National Pork Board's scientific guide to proper production practices. For more information on the Swine Care Handbook, contact Dr Paul Sundberg, Assistant Vice-President of VeterinaryIssues, at paul.sundberg@

Biosecurity and security guides distributed to AASV members

Also distributed to AASV members in the United States are new Biosecurity and SecurityGuides for pork producers, providing practical information on protecting swine herds from disease and strengthening farm security. Questions about these materials should be directed towards Dr Mark Engle, Director of Swine Health Programs, at