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    Michigan State University Enhances Methods to Track Beef

    Pilot program using smart phone technology comes as FSMA rules go into effect

    A pilot beef traceability program being conducted at Michigan State University (MSU) has proven initially successful, making it feasible for a quick barcode scan with a smart phone to pinpoint the exact animal RFID number, grade, age, breed of the animal, certification, and the local farm picture where the steak originated using the ScoringAg.com database and labeling system.

    Timing on the project has been of the essence, with the first of the new FDA-FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) rules going into effect on July 3, where all food, feed, ingredients and beverages have to be labeled and tracked, and data stored for two years if a recall is ever necessary.

    MSU animal science associate professor Dan Buskirk has worked to continue improving the project, which stemmed from a mandatory livestock tracing program adopted in 2007 to track the state's cattle herds to battle bovine tuberculosis.

    Buskirk said that translating RFID ear tags to a barcode-enabled database, then to pieces or retail packages of beef that can be labeled with an I-phone readable 2D barcode, and tracing it back to the farm and the individual animal became possible with ScoringAg.com. The UNIX web-based database system has had 2D Data Matrix phone/camera technology since 2004.

    Buskirk, who has been working with the Michigan RFID tagging program since its inception, was looking for a way to expand its value when fellow animal science assistant professor Jason Rowntree began working on a new project to utilize MSU-raised beef cattle in MSU restaurants and cafeterias. It quickly became clear that MSU Culinary Services, a department of MSU Residential and Hospitality Services, was interested in not only locally sourced beef, but also the potential for full traceability of beef from the farm to the plate.

    The successful pilot for the local beef project will also serve as the pilot program for Buskirk and his MSU team to begin putting the pieces in place to trace beef all the way to the consumer and for the required FSMA rule from FDA.

    He is working with William Kanitz, president of ScoringAg; Donald Tomkinson of ATS for hardware labeling equipment; and Robert Brubacher, cattle expert and representative of ScoringAg from Cheboygan, Mich., to perfect the technology of data collection and identify any other challenges for implementing it for smart phone usage.

    The researchers now know that consumers will one day be able to scan the barcode at a kiosk in the grocery store or restaurant, by individual package, or by using a Smartphone application. The information on the package also can be retrieved by entering the SSI-EID traceback code from a home computer using the food search engine at www.traceback.com

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