My View From The Country

Liability Risk Is Beginning To Flow Down The Beef Production Chain

Table of Contents:

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is moving forward with its traceability initiative. The debate is no longer about whether or not it is going to be required, but how do we create a system that minimizes the costs and does not impede the flow of beef commerce?

Eventually, it will be understood that any time an animal changes hands, assurances will have to be made; it will simply be seen as a necessary cost of doing business – like brand inspections and health papers. In the short term, it will pose challenges, especially for the sale barns across the country.

Perhaps, to make it easier, the industry needs to standardize and create such forms. Currently, we have different buyers with different forms, even though they are essentially the same. Perhaps some entrepreneur will come up with a phone app that will enable producers to fill out and sign these forms electronically and store them on a cloud somewhere so they can be easily accessed.

This week, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced its plans for moving forward with its traceability initiative. There’s been a lot of concern in the country about traceability, but the marketplace is beginning to demand it to a degree that the argument is shifting.

Without question, there is a cost associated with this degree of record keeping. But the debate is no longer about whether or not it is going to be required, as the consumer has spoken. The question is how do we create a system that minimizes the costs and does not impede the flow of commerce?

With mandatory country-of-origin labeling, the great debate was whether it should be voluntary or mandatory. In regard to traceability, we have debated how the data should be stored, who will have access, and the degree to which the government should be involved. The marketplace is answering those questions by instituting a mandatory/voluntary program.

Of course, you have a right not to sign the affidavits. However, if you exercise that right, you also have to understand that those buyers will exercise their right to not buy your cattle.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 7

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Mar 7, 2014

Why not a per-head fee paid to seller for producing the paperwork? Why do it for free and eat the cost, particularly when there's no possible hope for the producer of traceability paperwork being a shield against litigation. If the buyers up the chain want paperwork, they should pay for the service. When traceability become a valued commodity, everybody wins.

Ken Ziegler (not verified)
on Mar 7, 2014

Come and have a look how the Canadian system has been working. Very little paper work yet works well. Enhanced consumer confidence results in better demand which translates into better prices under the free enterprise model. The cow calf guys win in this instance as all the others are margin operators and typically bid to the point of breakeven.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 10, 2014

There is very little paperwork in Canada becauses we don't actually have a traceability system. We have an animal Identification system that nobody can use to actually get information on what happened to an animal upstream in the production system

James McGrann (not verified)
on Mar 11, 2014

May also look at New Zealand and Australia as they have had a national system for many years.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 11, 2014

Most may find it hard to believe but currently there is zero market for full traceability unless you are a niche business. No large scale harvest company in the US has a domestic market for this type of program. I find it interesting that the public wants traceability but they don't care enough to actually push the matter to any result.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 11, 2014

Ironically,the same people that are asking the producers to accept thier liability for free are also crying and claiming that it is an awful expense and burden to comply with COOL ???????????????????

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 11, 2014

Anonymous ...and I find it equally ironic that those who support COOL are so opposed to a national animal identification system.

Not proud of the animals you raise and the manner in which you raise them? If you are so proud of how you raise animals, what do you have to hide? Why not put an individual ID in each and every animal that leaves your premise?

Packers are used to having auditors in their facilities to review and confirm how they conduct day-to-day business activities. The government is in those establishments EVERY day looking over thier shoulder. And third party auditors and individual customers are constantly in thise facilities as well. Feeders are now being audited as well.

Are you ready to have your management practices audited by complete strangers? Why are cattlemen so opposed to identifying their cattle ...and NO brands are NOT a form of individaul identification necessary to track cattle through the produciotn sytem don't play that LAME excuse!

What is good for the goose equally as good for the gander. Right?

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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