The Use of EPC RFID Standards for Livestock Traceability

by Gary Hartley on 2013-01-28

The New Zealand RFID Pathfinder (Pathfinder) is an Incorporated Society established in May 2006. Pathfinder envisages superior economic and competitive performance in New Zealand through the adoption of RFID and EPC technologies. Pathfinder’s objective is to coordinate and support organisations and individuals involved in the field of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and the Electronic Product Code (EPC).

Prompted by their constituents and by their own concerns about safety, government in Europe and the United States are drafting new laws and regulations requiring various degrees of traceability, especially in the food and food products industries. The new requirements are creating more demand for traceability than ever before. Companies and regulators need systems than can provide robust end-to-end traceability with accurate information and precise identification of the products and services, locations and entities involved.

RFID technologies are seen as tools for identification and traceability within the food and food products sectors.

This research is a continuation of earlier research undertaken in 2010 by the New Zealand Pathfinder Group that investigated and assessed the efficacy of using ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID technology and the EPCglobal Network for livestock traceability. The focus was specifically on cattle as a sample species as outlined by Hartley & Sundermann (2010).

That analysis outlined a methodology involving a process that identified, captured and provided data exchange of EPC data involving live animals moving from an on-farm environment through a meat processing facility to delivery of cartons of finished meat cuts to a New Zealand retail facility. The findings of the research confirmed that the EPCglobal Network and specifically the EPCIS standard can enhance supply chain visibility and establish traceability.

This research focuses specifically on using EPC UHF RFID standards (components of the EPCglobal Network) to identify, capture and share information throughout an eleven (11) stage process in the New Zealamd venison industry. The researchers used the technologies to investigate the movement of live deer from a farm in Geraldine, New Zealand and through a venison processing plant and then the export of chilled cartons of venison cuts by ocean freight to Europe and their delivery of cartons to retail locations in Hamburg, Germany. The cross-border element of the research provided an additional dimension to earlier research and was purposely included in the research design to examine and assess the EPC standards more rigorously.

The findings corroborate those of earlier research. They confirm that EPC RFID standards and especially the EPCIS are efficacous, effective and efficient tools for enhancing supply chain visibility and traceability.

The researchers elected to incorporate an additional dimension into research by using active RFID tags (data loggers) Xsense® to monitor the temperature of individual cartons of venison cuts during the transit from the processing plant in New Zealand to delivery at retail in Hamburg. Further, movement of the shipping container itself was also tracked using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.

This research was completed under the direction of the New Zealand RFID Pathfinder Group Incorporated with financial support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (Sustainable Farming Fund), industry bodies including GS1 New Zealand, Deer Industry New Zealand Farm IQ and of ANZCO Foods, Downlands Deer and Mountain River Processors. In Hamburg, the researchers worked closely with Prime Meat, a German meat importer and wholesaler that received the consignment and effected delivery to final destination.

The researchers wish to thank NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing Ltd) and BT9 for their support. The researchers encourage further research in this field towards greater industry adoption. Pathfinder wish to acknowledge and thank its funders and supporters for their valuable input in this research.

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