AGRICULTURAL giant Cargill is launching a pilot programme tracing Canadian beef from birth to burger.
The company is to use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and says the initiative has significant scale and will incorporate and explore, new technologies. It will include only Canadian cattle, starting with animals processed at a plant in Alberta.
The pilot builds on McDonald Canada’s beef sustainability pioneering effort completed in 2016, in which nearly 9,000 cattle were tracked throughout the supply chain.
The pilot is also designed to test – for the first time – the standards and guidance developed by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
Cargill, the largest beef processor in Canada, is a founding member of the roundtable.
Using the existing RFID tag system, cattle will be tracked by the Beef Info-Exchange System from the time cattle producers tag them, through processing at the Cargill plant.
Verified Beef Production Plus – overseen by the Beef Cattle Research Council and operated with the provincial cattle organisations – will be the certification body auditing participating cattle producers.
A unique aspect of the pilot involves an extra payment for participating cattle producers to help offset the increased costs associated with implementing and running the programme.
Cargill beef sustainability manager Gurneesh Bhandal says McDonald’s Canada, Loblaw supermarkets and Swiss Chalet restaurants are the Cargill customers participating in the pilot.
“Ever-more-frequently, our retail and restaurant customers ask us questions about where Canadian beef comes from and how the cattle are raised,” Bhandal says in a statement.
“Consumer research tells us there is a thirst for this type of information. We have been listening and learning. Our sustainability pilot will help create the infrastructure needed to implement the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s standard in our supply chain, providing customers and consumers with an increased level of trust in the beef they purchase.”
A variety of technologies will be explored with the aim of creating a process that is robust while still being practical, scalable and cost-effective.
“We want this to be the best possible model for beef from verified sustainable sources in Canada,” Bhandal says.
“Any technology that could potentially make this process better for the Canadian beef value chain will be considered.”