by SUSAN MANN
Canada’s pork industry is getting an additional $3.7 million from the federal government to continue developing a national pig movement tracking system across the country.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the funding today at the Conestoga Meat Packers facility in Breslau. The commitment brings the federal government’s investment in a national hog traceability system to $7 million.
Curtiss Littlejohn, one of two Ontario representatives to the Canadian Pork Council, says the money announced today will be used by the council to educate farmers, processors and to a certain extent consumers about the value of “being able to trace the product back to where it came from.”
The council’s traceability system, called PigTrace Canada, will track the movement of hogs across the country. It’s technically functional now, Littlejohn says.
PigTrace is expected to be operational near the end of this year. With the latest government funding, the council will start testing the system with actual functional data and “move towards being ready to go into full traceability at the end of 2011.”
Phase one in the development of PigTrace was to create a national tag distribution system for hogs and the technical requirements needed for data input. The technical side is being tested and the system is being made ready to be released to farmers. It will be introduced to farmers once federal government regulations are passed and implemented, he says.
Littlejohn says the pork industry views traceability as a tool that will enable it to capture higher value markets.
A federal government press release lists the ability to quickly track the farm a pig came from in the event of a disease outbreak as another benefit. Having a national data base so the council can do tracking may help limit the economic and trade impacts of such emergencies, the release states.
The government has set this year as the deadline for Canada’s livestock industries to implement a national mandatory traceability system. Ritz says the pork industry is ahead of the beef industry in developing a system. Dairy has had traceability for several years. Asked if the deadline will be met, Ritz says, “we’re well underway and things are looking good.”
Ritz says both domestic and international consumers are demanding to know more about the food they eat. “Being able to say this is top quality Canadian product goes a long way with consumers around the world. They recognize the value and validity of Canadian product.”
Littlejohn says in developing its system, the pork industry is trying to introduce a program so farmers can quickly log in, enter their data and exit. “We are working with the major swine software companies to try and build a small subset within their program that will allow for automatic uploading of the required data.”
If that works out, farmers won’t have do any extra work “other than doing their normal swine record management,” he says, noting the idea is to develop a system that won’t interfere with the speed of commerce. BF