Modern electronics and computer technology can be used to provide traceability in the U.S. pork chain from the retail counter back to the original animal in the farrowing house but the costs associated with identification tags in the live animals would be substantial and it would be difficult if not impossible to make the needed changes in many existing packing facilities to maintain this level of traceability. This would necessitate replacement of existing packing facilities with new construction. The resultant cost of meat with this level of traceability would, at least in the near term, be high and we believe the average U.S. consumer is not yet ready to pay for these increased costs. Most of the benefits from traceability, however, such as improved meat quality and improved food safety, could be derived with a batch traceability method in which retail products could be traced back to the producer by appropriately limiting the source of animals that constitute a batch. The incremental cost of batch traceability, in particular with large batches, would be small and existing market pressures will likely move the industry to batch traceability even in the absence of regulatory initiatives. Economic issues associated with the cost/benefit tradeoffs associated with reducing risk associated with smaller batch sizes when recalls are necessitated and the loss of productivity associated with breaks in the process will determine what batch sizes are most practical. Batch traceability, however, will disfavor small batches and thus disfavor small producers and if this type of traceability becomes a reality, the small producer will likely either face substantial discounts in what they are paid for their product or be forced to focus on more specialized markets. The perception that the EU has widespread individual animal traceability is just a perception and in reality the distinction between the traceability in the U.S. and that in the EU has more to do with semantics and marketing than with engineering or economics.
Finally, the issue of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and its relationship between food safety and traceability has been considered. Although there may be a perception that COOL provides some form of traceability, our study shows that compliance with COOL requirements can be achieved without the use of traceability and without any substantial impact on food safety.