From farm to fork – improving traceability through technology
Of the many rules and regulations imposed on UK abattoirs, few are as strict or as vital to a site’s reputation as traceability.
Keeping all traceability data secure and well organised can be a challenge, but clever use of specialised abattoir management software can ensure that records for every animal passing through your site are complete and easy to access, explains Rob Stephens, Managing Director of SI (Systems Integration).
Being able to prove the origin of the meat you sell and that shops sell on to their customers has been a legal requirement for some time. Over recent years, however, this has become even more important, as the buying public has become increasingly aware and concerned about the origins of their food.
The problem is that every business sees traceability differently, whether they are an abattoir, processor or retailer, depending on what their start point is. For instance, whilst a supplier will have the use by date of a product. If a product recall is required, the traceability needs to demonstrate what raw materials went into it and where the remaining raw materials went to.
The application of stricter and more extensive legislation has in part, been caused by a series of scandals over improperly sourced or contaminated meat, such as the infamous horse meat scandal that swept through Europe in 2013. As well as this, research has shown that consumers are paying attention to where their meat was produced, with the NFU reporting that 91% of the UK public said they wanted to buy more British food.
To keep both the regulators and your customers happy, an abattoir needs to demonstrate complete traceability across its operations.
Maintaining a certified industry standard, such as Red Tractor, requires regular audits and if the traceability isn’t up to the guidelines, it may risk a company’s reputation and ability to sell products at the best possible prices.
At SI, we’ve seen how some of the more advanced abattoirs are now providing secure livestock websites for farmers and producers, who can then log on to the portal to see how their animals have been graded. Through the data capture provided by our software, this is then replicated and sent to the portal. Farmers can then input their producer code to view information about each of the passport, weights and grades achieved.
Setting the Standards
In order to demonstrate complete traceability, slaughterhouses must ensure that they are doing numerous things correctly. This is why it’s essential that they have a reliable and efficient system that accurately records the identification, selection, weighing, grading and labelling information of all livestock and carcasses on site. And for each animal, they must correctly record and maintain regulatory veterinary records.
In an environment where operations are driven by an intensive and complex daily schedule, it can sometimes be hard to make sure everything is recorded as thoroughly as it should be, especially if records are still being maintained with pen and paper. Strict and extensive tracing is one of the toughest challenges faced by abattoirs, but SI’s web-based livestock tracker software provides complete visibility and control of the slaughter process, so traceability will be gained.
Boning hall knowledge
When it comes to analysing the main boning hall operation having data at hand to prove what went into the boning hall on each day, including detail such as how many movements each animal has had is extremely useful for marketing products. For example, there are varying criteria that supermarkets insist upon for different product offerings. This includes the number of cattle movements, which could result in additional stress to the animal, and how many different farms they have gone to.
The availability of this data ensures that traceability becomes part of the day-to-day business cycle in any abattoir. It enables real-time monitoring, capturing livestock data from delivery right through to despatch, and results in a comprehensive and accurate view of the abattoir’s kill line, always being available. It even alerts operators to any potential issues, allowing staff to act quickly and contain any problems, minimising disruption.
“Most importantly, the software has been specially designed for abattoirs and will make sure that businesses meet essential industry legislation and avoid penalties and fines. The electronic data management enables abattoirs to easily provide evidence to relevant authorities, such as the BRC, even within short time frames. Through automated data capture across an abattoir’s site, BRC audits can be completed within 10 minutes, rather than the allotted 4 hours, reducing the burden, whilst improving its integrity and quality of the content.
Overcoming different animal challenges
When it comes to sheep, traceability is further complicated by the fact that the lorries may well be loaded with animals from more than one farm after auction. However, as every sheep has an RFID tag, the SI system can scan each of these tags, prior to the animal being killed. The information captured will then show where and when the sheep/flocks have been moved, and categorically link back to the farmers.
Using this information provides farmers with the reassurance that they will get paid for precisely what they sold. This traceability in England is further enabled for farmers by DEFRA’s ARAMS portal (Animal Reporting and Moving Service).
A Healthy Business
Making sure that the livestock in your abattoir is properly tracked isn’t just about efficiency and proving your product’s origins. It also plays a vital role in keeping animals healthy and properly maintaining notes and records for vets.
Many UK abattoirs are still reliant on manually recording veterinary data and, as a result, do not have a real-time view of health information. Our Integreater software ties in directly with vet information screens and electronic record management, providing information for both antemortem and post-mortem. This automatically records veterinary conditions, so you always have an accurate view of health data. Abattoirs can view exactly which cattle have been affected by liver fluke or other conditions, as well as which farm the animals have come from. This traceability allows management to easily see who their best farmer producers are without having to wade through huge quantities of data by hand.
Once you can be fully confident that the health information you have can accurately be attributed to the correct animal and correct batch of animals, it’s possible to tie it into other systems that benchmark performance of healthy animals against animals which have some health issues and determine the best producers. Our vet screens also generate and email reports to your management team, making sure they always have up-to-date information.
It’s through our hands-on experience of abattoir operations that we’ve developed proven solutions for the meat and livestock industry. The issues and operations faced every day by abattoirs are complex and cannot be adequately addressed by ERP/MES systems. If you are considering an upgrade to your existing livestock systems, our food productivity experts are here to help. We already supply some of the largest meat producers in the UK, Canada and the USA with reliable and state-of-the-art Livestock Systems.”