The UK farming industry has shown support for the creation of the Livestock Information Service, which provides meat farmers and manufacturers with accurate traceability data on their animals.

According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the new service will be initiated in 2019 and aims to ‘provide the foundations for some of the best farm-to-fork traceability in the world when the UK leaves the EU’. The system will identify and track livestock via electronic ID tags throughout their entire lifespan.

The ID system will initially be used to track dairy cows, cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. It will help farmers and government inspectors to respond to crises such as disease outbreaks, said a Defra spokesperson.

A number of industry stakeholders contributed to its development through the Traceability Design User Group (TDUG) partnership.

“This service will be instrumental in improving traceability and providing guarantees to consumers about the origin of their food.” said UK Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove. “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.”

TDUG chair John Cross agreed that the farming industry and government shared a consensus on the need for a single digital multi-species livestock traceability service, saying: “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.”

The project to unify livestock traceability in the UK began in 2014.

British Meat Processors Association CEO Nick Allen, one of the original developer of the system, said: “I’m very proud that the work John Cross and I started four years ago has now become a reality. The new Livestock Information Service will put Britain at the forefront of farm-to-fork traceability and cement our position as one of the world’s best food producing nations.”

NFU president Minette Batters suggested the project was a win for the government, the agricultural industry, and for the consumer.

NFU Scotland livestock policy manager John Armour expressed concerns over the new system, questioning its priorities and what he claimed is an England-centric stance, commenting: “As the Defra Livestock Information Programme progresses, we need to see more outreach from Defra to other parts of the UK. Lately we have seen a tendency for Defra officials to primarily consult English stakeholders on issues that will clearly impact businesses across GB and the UK.”

He added that Scotland uses its own system for sheep traceability and feared that the new system may bring up incompatibility issues.

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