Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): John Webb
Publication Date: January 1, 2004
Reference: Banff Pork Seminar 2004
Country: Canada


In order to increase public awareness of food safety, a pork tracking system is being developed. The need for this traceability comes from increasing focus on food safety, need for zoning in the case of disease, tracking drug residues, recall in the event of contamination, feedback to allow quality control, protection against bioterrorism, and marketing the “Canada Brand” worldwide. This system will also help Canada internationally to gain a competitive advantage. It will help disease-free geographical regions to continue exporting if a major disease outbreak occurs. Tracing methods for live animals include ear tags and tattoos for being cheap and reliable. Dead pigs at the plant can be as simple as a paper bar code that can be read and reprinted at each point where a cut is divided into smaller portions. The ultimate objective will be to trace every piece of meat from plate to farm through each step of the value chain: retail, distribution, processing, slaughter, production, nutrition, breeding, and genetics. The implementation into slaughter plants is much more difficult and would cost potentially $15 million to implement, resulting in an extra $4.50 extra per carcass, which is simply unacceptable. DNA tracking can link meat back to the farm of origin and is cheap and easy to implement. It is very accurate and free of human error compared to the hand-labelling systems. Maple Leaf Foods plans to introduce traceability in 3 stages: DNA tracking to the farm with live animal tracking to the plant, tracking through slaughter plant, and public access through the internet. In December 2002 Maple Leaf Foods placed a contract with Pyxis Genomics Inc. to trace meat back to the mother of the slaughter pig. Today the cost of DNA typing a single mother is about $35, and about $1 per carcass from that sow. The largest cost is the initial start-up cost of DNA typing the sow herd. Within 3 years the cost is expected to drop to about $6 per mother and less than 10 cents per carcass. Costs of DNA traceability can be recovered by adding value to the end product or as a cost of increasing market share. DNA traceability can also improve genetics because of its ability to track either defective or excellent meat back to the sow.

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