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Alberta Agriculture teams with Prairie Heritage Beef to test meat traceab

In an effort to improve accountability and traceability in the food value chain, the government of Alberta has joined with three other interests to help devise a traceback system for beef, from the farm to the consumer's table.

October 27, 2008  By Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

October 23, 2008

Edmonton, AB and Lawrence, KS  –The Government of Alberta's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) is collaborating with Prairie Heritage Beef Producers, IdentiGEN North America and Quality Foods, a British Columbia-based grocery retail chain, on a pilot program to test a DNA technology that scientifically tracks beef from the ranch to the retail store.


The pilot program with Prairie Heritage's 14 family ranches in Western Canada supports ARD's commitment to partnering with industry to develop effective meat traceability systems and increase the value of Alberta-produced meat with Canadian consumers and in export markets. ARD is the one of the first Canadian entities to test DNA TraceBack™, a proprietary meat identification and traceability system based on DNA analysis that is already in widespread use in Europe.

ARD is supportive of this leading-edge technology for meat traceability to bolster the competitive position of its meat industry.

"One of our key goals is to form collaborative relationships with producers to create value and provide accountability to consumers through foolproof meat traceability," said Jim Hansen, Business Development Officer, Beef Livestock Products, for Alberta Agriculture.  "This is a partnership that, above all, benefits the consumer. DNA is indisputable. It verifies product marketing claims, and it can pinpoint a product's ranch of origin with total accuracy."

“Quality Foods is extremely pleased and excited to be the first retailer in Canada involved with this innovative program,” says Ken Schley, Quality Foods' director of operations. “Our customers will benefit by knowing that we have access to accurate and important details on how, when and where their food was produced. We feel that this offers consumers a level of confidence and assurance that Quality Foods is committed to customer service and food safety.”

The first phase of the two-phase pilot program involves DNA sampling of all Prairie Heritage cattle at the Prairie Heritage feedyard, and matching DNA samples of finished products at retail stores with these source animals. The second phase focuses on testing consumer reaction to traceability concepts at retail stores.

"DNA TraceBack is a well-known seal of authenticity throughout Ireland and in other parts of Europe," said Donald R. Marvin, president and CEO of IdentiGEN North America. "It is uniquely suited to support the Canadian consumer's demand for meat traceability."

In 2007, Alberta beef production accounted for $3 billion (Canadian) of the $6.5 billion Canadian beef industry, or about 40 percent of Canada's total beef production, according to industry sources. About 70 percent of all Canadian-raised cattle are finished in Alberta.

In May 2006, Alberta Agriculture and Food (AF) created a Traceability Branch in its Environment and Food Safety Sector to help protect the public interest in areas of food safety, emergency management and public health. The initiative focuses on collaboration between industry and government to create secure, sustainable, value-driven and networked traceability systems that prepare Alberta’s agriculture and food industries to respond to crises, emergencies and disease outbreaks in order to better compete and capture market opportunities.

IdentiGEN's DNA TraceBack is a unique system that uses DNA analysis to support marketing of branded meat, to verify country of origin, and to validate marketing claims and product attributes. DNA TraceBack has additional value as a competitive positioning tool for retailers who want to build consumer trust in fresh meat products.

The DNA TraceBack® system has been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service as a Process Verified Program (PVP). Additional information can be found at


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