AIM Global publishes report on using RFID to protect the food supply chain

AIM Global, a trade association focused on data capture and radio frequency identification (RFID), has published a technical report entitled, "RFID for Food Animal Identification in North America."

With the frequent transport of food animals, primarily beef cattle, across borders in North America and the recent BSE ("mad cow disease") incidents, both Canada and the U.S. have issued mandates to improve life time tracking of cattle. The report was developed in response to those mandates.

The AIM Global report includes recommendations for the use of existing low frequency (LF) RFID ear tags, as well as ultra high frequency (UHF). While both bar code and LF RFID ear tags have been available for a number of years, they encode only a unique animal ID, have limitations in range and require access to an external database for pertinent data. Recommendations in the report include provision for pertinent data to be recorded directly in memory on the ear tag, speeding data collection and animal identification.

The report recognizes the existing ISO standards for the use of LF RFID ear tags but details the benefits that could be recognized by utilizing the expanded data content and read range available with newer UHF RFID tags. These expanded capabilities could greatly facilitate the rapid identification of animals throughout the supply chain in the event of biological or toxicological health threats.

The report also details how the expanded data capacity of UHF ear tags could be used to record data that would be of use to animal owners, feed lots, auction houses and processing plants beyond simple compliance with government mandates. These benefits could provide economic incentives to use UHF RFID ear tags by providing individual users with instant access to animal management data.

Tests at Kansas State University, as well as tests performed by several wildlife management groups, have shown that UHF RFID can be used for food animal ID and is compatible with farming and ranching practices used in North America. The report outlines the use of expanded memory capacities and read/write capabilities of UHF RFID for food animal ID that are not available with current LF systems. The report also highlights the greater range provided by UHF systems that can simplify animal handling during identification.

With a number of wildlife management groups piloting UHF animal ID tags because of the increased read range and extended data capability, it underscores the probability that other types of food animals will also be identified using RFID ear tags and the document was designed to be applicable to all current species of food animals.

AIM Global acknowledges that commercial products that can conform to the rigorous environmental conditions and performance criteria specified in the report are not yet widely available. However, it is expected that this report will foster the further development of such products and it is hoped that it will facilitate the development of standard products that meet the increasing demands for rapid and accurate food animal identification and traceability by both governmental regulatory agencies as well as the food supply chain itself.

Click here to read the report.

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