Food procurement just got a high-tech makeover. The US meat processing giant, Tyson Fresh Meats, is deploying a new means of tracing its products throughout the supply chain, via DNA samples of its products from the ranch of origin to the restaurant or retailer where they are sold. The new tracking project, developed by DNA analytics company, IdentiGEN, is currently being trialled with one of Tyson’s brands, Open Prairie beef. DNA samples, obtained from carcasses at the harvest facility, are then given a unique barcode. Once scanned, the DNA data can be linked to the carcass ID and the live animal ID, with the resulting connected data entered into the database.
IdentiGEN’s director of technical accounts, Greg Peters, said: “Then at any point in the future once it’s processed — it’s cut into steaks, it’s ground into ground beef, whatever the case may be … a sample can be taken of the finished product and then tied back through this DNA traceability to the animal that it originated from.”
According to Tyson’s VP of Marketing and Premium Programmes, Kent Harrison, the project is a response to rising customer demand for greater visibility into food supply chains. Representing a unique innovation to supply relationship management, the initiative promises to encourage high standards among suppliers. All the cattle involved in this initial implementation come under Tyson’s “No Antibiotics Ever” category, granting customers an extra level of assurance that the product they are buying meets these quality requirements.
None of the 70 ranches supplying meat to Tyson were required to make alterations to their procedures to install the programme. Tyson is able to use the technology to continuously check and verify the source of all its Open Prairie beef. Furthermore, restaurants and retailers selling this brand can request having their product tested by sending a sample to the IdentiGEN laboratory in Kansas. Today’s procurement practitioners are delivering more than cost reduction, it seems.