Beef traceability with GS1 standards

The case study outlines the successful pilot project conducted by Musgrave SuperValu-Centra and their main beef supplier Kepak, to track beef from the point of slaughter until it reached the retail outlet, utilising a GS1-standards based solution.

GS1 Beef Traceability Case StudyEuropean Food Traceability Legislation

In 2000, the European Commission introduced Regulation 1760 / 2000 to ensure that all beef producers labelled their product with the following information:

  • Country of birth
  • Country or countries of fattening
  • Country of slaughter
  • Country or countries of cutting
  • Approval number of slaughterhouse and cutting halls.

The aim of the legislation was to ensure that beef in retail outlets could be linked back to the individual animal or the group of animals from which it originated. The BSE crisis of the 1990s caused a decline in beef consumption across Europe and the Commission hoped that with the introduction of this legislation, consumers would regain confidence in beef.

Traceability of Beef Guidelines

GS1 Global Office formed a European Meat Expert Group (EMEG) to look at how GS1 standards could help companies comply with previous beef labelling legislation (EC 82097). This group produced the Traceability of Beef Guidelines which outlined how to use the GS1 Standards to comply with EC 82097. However, when EC 1760 / 2000 was introduced repealing EC 82097, the guidelines were updated to reflect the new legislation.

Following the publication of the third edition of the GS1 Traceability of Beef Guidelines, GS1 Ireland decided it would be beneficial to start a pilot project in Ireland to demonstrate how to use the GS1 Standards in the beef sector to comply with 1760 / 2000. The work of scoping the project was carried out by the GS1 Food Traceability Committee and after many discussions the final project participants were GS1 Ireland, Musgrave SuperValu-Centra, Kepak, Digi Systems and Avery Berkel. It was decided that the project would run from the point of slaughter to when the beef is sold in a retail environment.

Beef traceability across the production and processing supply chain

When the animal is slaughtered and cut into primals, a GS1 128 barcode is placed on the bag of vacuum packed primals which carries the required traceability information under 1760 / 2000. It also includes additional information such as the farmers name and address and the sex and breed of the cattle. GS1 128 is an intelligent barcode that allows supplementary information about an item such as batchlot number and best before date to be encoded. The primals are scanned into storage using the GS1 128 barcode and scanned back out when they are ready to be dispatched to Musgrave. At the store level, when the primals are received they are again scanned into storage and scanned back out when ready to be made into retail cuts.

When preparing pre-packed product at the store level, the traceability information on the GS1 128 label is transferred from the primal cuts to the retailers scales through scanning. The scales then allocated a unique FoodTrace number to each piece of pre-packed meat which links it back to the batch of animals killed on a particular day. The Food Trace label is then attached to each piece of pre-packed meat. If the consumer has a query relating to the beef they purchased, by quoting the FoodTrace number, the retail outlet can then trace the animal back to the slaughterhouse and back to farm. Similarly for serve over products, the information on the GS1 128 from the primals is transferred through scanning to the back office PC which then allocates a batch number to the primals cut each day. When the beef is served at the counter and weighed, a FoodTrace label is attached which again links the beef bought back to the slaughterhouse and farm from which it originated.

The FoodTrace traceability system

The FoodTrace system was designed and developed by Denis O'Brien, formerly IT Consultant with Valent System and Kepak and now Director of Standards and Solutions at GS1 Ireland. FoodTrace is system independent and can therefore be used by other suppliers and food products.

The case study outlines in greater detail how the project worked and the main benefits for Kepak and Musgrave SuperValu-Centra. Over 150 SuperValu stores are fully operational with the FoodTrace System with another 15 estimated to be on line by the end of 2005. 25 Centra stores will have it by the end of 2005. As the Kepak & Musgrave SuperValu-Centra project is based on open global supply chain standards, it is intended to be a model for an efficient and cost effective Track & Trace Solution for the entire food sector

Watch the Beef Traceability Case Study Video


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