MANHATTAN — A national cattle identification system that was first developed at Kansas State University has received a big boost of support from one of the country’s largest food companies.
Tyson Fresh Meats, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., is backing U.S. CattleTrace, a system that uses ear tags with ultrahigh frequency technologies to establish a national animal disease traceability system.
The system was first tested in 2018 as a pilot project led by K-State, the Kansas Livestock Association, the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and individual producers.
At the time, university researchers were interested in developing a system to help safeguard Kansas’ $17 billion cattle industry. The idea was to garner support among producers, who would attach ear tags with ultrahigh frequency chips. As cattle moved through the production system, researchers could collect data on their locations and movements on computers located centrally in Manhattan.
In the case of disease outbreak, knowing the movements of a given group of cattle — and what herds they may have interacted with — is a big advantage to keeping the entire industry from facing a shutdown. Having information on the movement of cattle herds would mean that only a small segment of animals would need to be isolated.
Tyson’s support is a key indicator that the system is gaining momentum nationally. Located in Springdale, Arkansas, Tyson Foods Inc. is the world’s second-largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork. Its fresh meats division operates six beef plants across the United States.
“Attracting investments from outside Manhattan represents one way K-State is working to build economic prosperity in the community, region and state,” said Beth Montelone, K-State interim vice president for research. “Tyson’s support of this successful system that was developed at K-State demonstrates the university’s commitment to fulfilling our land-grant mission to improve quality of life for all through education, research and outreach.”
CattleTrace directly supports the beef cattle ranching and farming sector, which is the top employer in Kansas with the highest financial output.
“K-State’s partnership in increasing economic development in the greater Manhattan region is a tremendous asset,” said Jason Smith, president and CEO of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. “This new support for the beef industry in Kansas and potential for future industry attraction in this sector are excellent indicators for job growth in the region.”
“Animal health and disease traceability are critical issues for the meat industry and we’re hopeful our involvement will help advance industry efforts to implement this program across the country,” said Shane Miller, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, in a news release from Tyson. “We believe CattleTrace can help to reduce the risk that animal disease poses to the U.S. cattle supply, while also protecting our industry’s access to important export markets, which can quickly be compromised in the event of an animal health issue.”
Brandon Depenbusch, the vice president of cattle operations at Innovative Livestock Services Inc. near Great Bend, was closely involved in the 2018 pilot project to test an animal disease identification system in Kansas.
“As leaders in the cattle industry, we are excited to see Tyson Fresh Meats’ commitment to animal health and disease traceability in the United States,” said Depenbusch, who now is chair of the U.S. CattleTrace board of directors. “We’ve heard from stakeholders across the country that in order for a producer-led system to succeed, buy-in amongst all sectors is needed. This commitment from a leader in beef processing shows that no matter where we come from in the cattle industry, we are all working towards a common goal of protecting our nation’s herd and the highest quality, most sustainable beef product in the world.”