Iowa State Business Faculty to Study European Meat Tracking Processes

AMES, Iowa - Two Iowa State University College of Business faculty members will visit England and Germany in June to study technology used for tracking meat through the production process with the aim of improving food safety in the United States.

Brian Mennecke and Anthony Townsend, both associate professors of management information systems, will evaluate how tracking information is collected and utilized to be retrieved quickly. New technologies will be tested, including radio frequency identification (RFID), bar code technologies, integration techniques and information systems.

Safety within the food supply chain, especially meat products, has become more visible and critical due to recent cases of with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. Tracking from the farm to the processing facility is a relatively simple procedure using identification tags or, more recently, bar coding. The challenge begins at the meat processing facility and managing tracking once the butchering process begins.

"The ability to identify the origins of consumer packaged meat products is an important issue for European manufacturers due to BSE," Mennecke said. "Our research is especially important for safety reasons. Increasingly, processors must be able to identify quarantined meat from specific animals quickly and efficiently. This research will aid in that effort."

The ISU professors will study the protocol Europeans use once processing begins. They will then return to the United States to see how domestic operations can more effectively incorporate radio frequency identification technology to meet future trade and agricultural resource needs.

"It is expected that traceability will become an important aspect of marketing meat products," Townsend said. "Our intention is to understand how the process is working in Europe so we can help Midwest agribusiness firms prepare for eventual regulations and understand the associated costs."

Mennecke and Townsend will travel with representatives from the Iowa Pork Producers Association, led by executive director Richard Degner, and Dr. James McKean, ISU University Professor of veterinary medicine and animal science.

The Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research and Information Center (MATRIC) and Iowa State's College of Business are funding this research.

MATRIC is a research center created to expand opportunities for international trade and investment by small- and mid-sized agribusiness firms in the Midwest. MATRIC's programs takes existing knowledge and research at Iowa State and funds interdisciplinary research projects that address a range of trade topics relating to economic potential, food safety, marketing, branding, transportation and trade barriers.