News from the National Pork Board

The National Food Animal Identification System - potential impact on pork producers


The need for a national food animal identification system and the details of what it should encompass have been long-standing discussion topics within animal agriculture. To date, many issues have been raised to prevent the developement of a national system, including producer costs, liability, confidentiality, and diversity of species needs. Recent significant global health events have increased the awareness of producers and animal health officials of the need for animal identification and traceability for effective disease management. In addition, as disease eradication programs conclude, the use of identification related to the eradication programs will decline.

What is "national" animal identification?

National identification, through established standards and defined data elements, allows for the compatibility of systems while providing the efficient availability of agreed-to information across each segment of the animal agriculture industry. The establishment of standards allows the system to support marketing, regulatory, and health assurance functions.

National Food Animal Identification Task Force objectives

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture has established a National Food Animal Identification Task Force with the objective of developing a national animal identification plan that can be implemented in a timely and cost effective manner. Five working groups have been established: Animal Disease Management, Product Marketing, Key Data Elements and ID Methods and Devises, Preharvest Production and Marketing Issues, and Funding, Authority, and Oversight of National Identification. Dr Mark Engle, National Pork Board (NPB) Director of Swine Health Programs, is the Vice Chair of the Task Force and Co-chair of the Animal Disease Management Working Group. In addition, four members of the NPB Swine Health Committee participate in the Working Groups, including AASV members Dr Fred Cunningham and Dr Robyn Fleck.

The Animal Disease Management Working Group is charged with providing direction to the establishment of a national identification system as it pertains to animal disease management (surveillance, monitoring, detection, control, eradication, and emergency management response). They are tasked with

  • Determining the populations of livestock by class type, defined high-risk area(s) that warrant required identification, or both;
  • Identifying the level of animal identification needed (lot, premises, or individual animal);
  • Determining what information related to animal identification is necessary; and
  • Describing the time frames that are acceptable for animal disease tracing (time between detection and achieving traceback).

On the basis of the premise that "rapid recovery is the key," the Animal Disease Management Working Group reached a consensus that, in the event of a foreign animal disease, the National Identification System should allow traceback to all premises with direct contact to the subject animal(s) in 48 hours.

Status of swine identification today

In 1988, USDA published its rule on mandatory swine identification in the Federal Register. Mandatory swine identification rules were implemented for interstate movements. Thus, pork producers have had some type of mandatory identification requirements for almost 15 years. Identification practices employed by pork producers today are the following:

  • Individual animal identification for all breeding stock in interstate commerce and at change of ownership;
  • Individual identification of all adult breeding swine at commingling or slaughter;
  • Premises identification of feeder swine in interstate commerce and at change of ownership, to the premises on which the swine originated;
  • Market swine delivered to federally inspected plants are identified to the owner with a tattoo at the time of slaughter; and
  • Feeder swine movements across state lines yet within a production system do not require identification but must have a valid production health plan approved by both states, and the records must be maintained by the premise for 3 years.

Three main issues make a reliable, coordinated system of swine identification important: domestic and emerging disease management, food safety traceback, and valued feedback along the food chain.

Pork producers have been active supporters of swine identification necessary to meet the health and regulatory needs of the industry. Significant Pork Checkoff dollars and producer volunteer time have been committed to this effort. The "Tag-along-Tag" project and the Meat Juice Screening project for pseudorabies (PRV) were two pork producers' pilot projects initiated by pork producers to advance identification and disease management. Through these programs, it became evident that backtags are not adequate identification for culled breeding animals, that market swine surveillance is important in eradication programs for diseases such as PRV, and that premises identification at market is necessary for efficient disease surveillance.


Relative to animal identification systems in other industry groups, swine identification is working well today. Nonetheless, to further swine identification for disease surveillance purposes, producers have recognized the need to improve the culled breeding swine identification system and to identify market pigs back to the last premises or location rather than to an owner or post office box at the time of delivery to the plant.

Pork producers need a flexible identifica-tion system that will meet animal health, regulatory, and food safety requirements. Due to the nature of pork production, group identification through premises identification is adequate to achieve these objectives. Individual identification methods are used in many breeding herds, as these are cost effective. However, individual identification of market swine is neither necessary nor economical at this time and must be market driven through economic incentives. For further information on identification initiatives, contact Dr Mark Engle. E-mail:; Tel: 515-223-2600.

Pork Checkoff Antimicrobial Alternatives review

Alternatives to antibiotic use for growth promotion in animal husbandry

Ellin Doyle, PhD; Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin

Pork Checkoff dollars have contributed to the compilation and review of the scientific literature on non-antimicrobial production enhancers. Dr Doyle's review evaluates growth promotant effects by antibiotics and alternative feed ingredients. These include probiotics and competitive exclusion, enzymes, immune modulators, organic acids (acidifiers), and other feed supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, phospholipids, amino acids, polysaccharides, conjugated linoleic acid, carnitine, and herbs. The complete report can be found at

Swine Welfare Assurance ProgramSM Update

The Swine Welfare Assurance ProgramSM (SWAPSM) will divide swine production into two stages, breed-to-wean and wean-to-finish, for assessing and evaluating swine well-being on farm. This program will be applicable to all sizes and types of production systems throughout the United States.

The NPB will encourage producers to complete the voluntary program to demonstrate their commitment to responsible animal care. In the future, packers may require well-being assurances for the animals they purchase if their customers expect this assurance. In addition, swine well-being is closely related to productivity, and the SWAPSM may elicit indicators for decreases in performance. Producers can then address challenges before production suffers. The program will be unveiled in the first quarter of 2003. The first educator training, which will allow for third-party audits, will be held as a pre-conference session with the 2003 AASV Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Whole Hog Value Symposium

The Pork Checkoff is offering producers and allied industry the chance to improve their marketing skills at the "Estimating Whole Hog Value Symposium: Finding the Highest Value for Your Pigs," to be held in Des Moines November 19-20.

Researchers from across the country will present information that will allow producers an in-depth understanding of marketing and value of the carcass. Topics of the symposium include

  • Predicting lean content by current packer systems;
  • Incorrect valuing of pigs in systems;
  • Genetic parameters affecting value;
  • Value of primal cuts;
  • Programs designed for carcass component value;
  • Procedure of Agricultural Marketing Service Market Reporting System; and
  • Producer experiences in marketing.

For registration and hotel information, contact Sharlotte Peterson at the National Pork Board; Tel: 515-223-2614. Information also can be found online at