The purpose of this project is to develop a manual or process for establishing a traceability or source verification for meat products born, raised and process in Maine.
The primary objective of this project is to develop the framework for a volunteer program that uses Radio Frequency Data Identification (RFID) or other technology and cross sector partnerships to certify Maine born, raised and processed meats and promotes the added value of those products in the marketplace.
Additionally, the project seeks to:
– Build a cross sector network of farmers and food business across the supply chain who can define core components of a meat traceability program
– Strengthen relationships and information-sharing across the supply chain
– Increase awareness of traceability technology options and applications for small and mid-sized farms
– Build the foundation for implementing a certification program for Maine born, raised and processed meats program and companion marketing and promotion campaign
– Start development of a state and federally-approved logo that can be added to the labels of farms and processors participating in the program
Build consumer awareness of the value of traceability in verifying born, grown and processed Maine meats and in ensuring the quality of meat products.
– Assure consumers they are receiving the value of a local brand so their efforts to support our Maine Red Meat industries are in fact doing just that.
The More Maine Meat Chain of Custody program will build on the work of other tracking and chain of custody programs including:
- Circle Fresh Farms. As referenced earlier, the recipient of a 2012 Western SARE grant, CFF developed and tested a “product track and trace system” for smaller producers. Their “Track and Trace Implementation Handbook” provides information on 28 preferable system attributes that were used to compare vendors that provide tracking software; many of these would also be relevant for small meat producers and processors developing similar traceability systems.
- The “Certified Beef from Nebraska Program.” Unveiled in 2017, this program provides an example of a public-private partnership that works with the USDA Process Verified Program to create a brand for Nebraska born, grown and raised meats.
- The “Wyoming Natural Verified” program. Developed by the Wyoming Business Council, this program works with a third-party auditor and serves as a “marketing tool to enhance profitability and (allow) producers to capture added value through premiums being offered for certified livestock.”
- Research on Modeling and Implementation of Supply Chain Traceability using a distributed RFID-Based Framework. An article published by PLOS ONE in 2015 details the findings of a Chinese research project that looked at the development, testing and evaluation of a traceability process for the beef / cattle industry for the purposes of guaranteeing quality and safety of food products and improving supply chain transparency. The research identified “critical traceability points” in the beef supply chain such as transferring a calf for fattening; slaughtering; and, carcass splitting. It also visually lays out an RFID information technology network architecture that would operate within individual segments of the supply chain (e.g. Farm, Processing Business, Distribution Business) and linked together as a collective traceability system.
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The Forest Stewardship Council led the development of an industry chain of custody program to encourage and promote sustainable harvesting of forest products. The Council’s “FSC Family Forests Group Operation Manual Template” outlines topic areas relevant to other groups developing chain of custody programs including how roles and responsibilities are defined; how “sustainability” is defined; what voluntary “membership” entails and how the chain of custody process is implemented.
- Marine Stewardship Council (MFC). Similar to the Forest Stewardship Council, the Marine Stewardship Council has created a traceability process for fish harvested from “sustainable fisheries.” The MFC Accreditation Manual also outlines logistics and topics relevant to other chain of custody programs including confidentiality and compliance.
The primary objective of this project is to develop the framework for a cooperative volunteer program that uses Radio Frequency Data Identification (RFID) or other technology and cross sector partnerships to certify Maine born, raised and processed meats and promotes the added value of those products in the marketplace.
Additionally, the project seeks to:
- Build a cross sector network of farmers and food business across the supply chain who can define core components of a cooperative meat traceability program
- Strengthen relationships and information-sharing across the supply chain
- Increase awareness of traceability technology options and applications for small and mid-sized farms
- Build the foundation for implementing a cooperative meat traceability program and companion marketing and promotion campaign
- Build consumer awareness of the value of traceability in verifying born, grown and processed Maine meats and in ensuring the quality of meat products.
- Assure consumers they are receiving the value of a local brand so their efforts to support our Maine Red Meat industries are in fact doing just that.
|June||Research to better understand requirements for special claims made on labeling for meat products.||
|July – August||Research on cooperative marketing models including those researched through SARE such as the Adirondack Grazers’ Cooperative.|
|Phone interviews with Adirondack Grazer’s Cooperative and three companies providing third-party verification services for the USDA Process Verified Program.||
|Phone interviews with staff from the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry regarding labeling requirements and processes for obtaining state and federal approval of labels with special claims.|
|Oct.||Farmer Advisory Committee interviews with 2 companies that offer third-party verification programs for process verified products.|
|Dec.||Research on co-branding and co marketing agreements|
|Jan.||Meeting with director for Maine Certified Organic program.|
|Meeting with Attorney to help draft agreements and protocols.|
USDA Third-Party Programs that Verify Source
- We learned that there are two types of USDA source and age verification programs producers can use to verify the source of meat products in order to make a special label claim that a product such as “Maine born, raised and processed.” These are the Process Verified Program (PVP) and Quality System Assessment (QSA) Program. Information is attached that compares both programs.
- Several states west of the Mississippi promote “local” meat brands by either operating their own source verified programs (North Dakota) or by contracting with Samson Inc., a third-party certifier for process verified beef products (Wyoming and Nebraska).
- A detailed comparison of information on three third-party certifier programs is attached.
Labeling for Meat Products
- A label or logo that indicates that a meat product is “Born, Raised and Processed in Maine” would be considered a “special claim” and would require a process for verifying the claim for both the farm and processor.
- Individual farms could make this claim if they have a state- (and a federal if selling out of state-) approved process in place for verifying the claim. This could be as simple as an affidavit however one of the reasons for this project is to create a tighter tracking system since the perception exists that affidavits are open to exploitation.
- Alternately, or in conjunction individual farms implementing tracking systems that enable them to make this special claim on their label, a state certification program for “Maine Born, Raised and Processed” meats could exist and certify farms willing to pay a fee to participate and to implement the necessary tracking measures.
- The label approval process and protocols required for special claims on meat sold in and out of state are essentially the same for Maine producers but different paperwork submitted to both the state and federal agencies. The federal agency that approves special label claims is the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Need for a Third-Party Certification Program for Maine Meat
- In addition to the core group of 5 farms now involved in the Advisory Committee; two new additional farms have expressed interest in helping with this project. There seems to be widespread concern that some companies operating in Maine are misleading consumers through marketing ploys such as company names that include Maine, and companies that market processed products as being from “Maine” when they are only processed in state using some or no Maine meat products. Additionally, concerns exist about weaknesses in the affidavit system currently used to ensure that animals slaughtered in Maine are from Maine.
- This fall, a state representative submitted a bill that would create a requirement that farms and processors provide label information on where their products are from.
Alternatives Appear to Exist to Establishing a State Third Party Certification Program
- Individual farms could be source-verified and work together to cooperatively promote and market their Maine products through co-branding and/or co-marketing agreements. Theoretically these farms would need to form a partnership, develop a logo that could be added to their individual farm labels, and obtain state/federal approval for making a special label claim and related processes to verify it.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
- Information on three companies providing third-party certified programs presented via webinar to UMaine Cooperative Extension staff, staff from the Maine Dept. of Ag, Conservation and Forestry, staff from the Independent Shared Services Cooperative, and 6 farmers.
- November 2019 MESAS Board of Directors Meeting including board members who work for Cooperative Extension, serve as board members or staff for nonprofit farms and/or work as farmers at their own businesses.
- Project information will be presented as part of the MESAS Board of Directors Meeting at the 2019 Maine Ag Trades Show.
- Increased awareness of existing traceability and source verification programs and technology being used in the marketplace.
- Increased understanding of federal and state logo and labeling requirements for special claims
- Increased participation in the project by farmers recognizing how source verification or traceability can be used to increase consumer awareness of products that are locally sourced
- Agreement that the group wants to focus initially on certifying or verifying Maine born, raised, and process meat without other requirements for the label such as organic.