Defra’s new livestock information service aims to improve farm-to-fork traceability

Beef cattle in mid Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Beef cattle in mid Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A new 'livestock information service' will be developed to give farmers more accurate information about animal movements and to improve the traceability of meat products.

Defra said the new service, set to be operational from 2019, will 'provide the foundation for some of the best farm-to-fork traceability in the world when the UK leaves the EU, demonstrating our credentials as a world leader in food production'.

Identifying and tracking animal movements via electronic IDs – initially dairy cows, cattle, sheep, pigs and goats – also means that the industry and government will be better-placed to respond in the event of a disease outbreak, said a department spokesman.

In his announcement, environment secretary Michael Gove praised the significant contributions of stakeholders from the meat and livestock sectors during the last year through a partnership called the Traceability Design User Group (TDUG), which will help create and develop the new service.

West Norfolk farmer John Cross, who chairs the group said: 'Government and industry ambitions are aligned in understanding the need for and benefits of a single, digital, multi-species livestock traceability and information service.

'The best use of proven modern technology will make it simple for farmers, food chain companies and government to use the service and reap the benefits of shared data that will put the UK livestock industry on the front foot as a global trading partner.'

Mr Gove said: 'This service will be instrumental in improving traceability and providing guarantees to consumers about the origin of their food.

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'NFU (National Farmers' Union) president Minette Batters, among others, has helped lead the way on this, showing how it will drive a progressive and vibrant livestock industry once we leave the EU.

'Working hand-in-hand with industry, we will design and implement a service that puts food safety, animal health and welfare and environmental enhancement at its core.'

NFU president Minette Batters said: 'It's essential that government and industry work together and this a great example of what we can achieve when we do. I feel that this is totally transformational, underpinning our reputation in producing some of the best meat and livestock products in the world. It's a win for government, a win for team agriculture and, most of all, it's a win for the consumer.'

Public and private stakeholders in the TDUG include the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, British Meat Processing Association, Food Standards Agency, Livestock Auctioneers Association, National Beef Association, NFU, National Pig Association, National Sheep Association, Red Tractor, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and Trading Standards.