The potential role of genomics to further improve traceability levels in the red meat industry was investigated, as DNA-based technologies offer unambiguous identification with a range of auxiliary benefits. Modelling indicated that genotyping the entire national beef herd for traceability is unlikely to compensate for the additional costs involved. However, potential additional benefits (faster genetic gain and better management decisions) make several implementation models appear to be highly attractive. Genotyping the national sheep flock is impractical, but the cost of using DNA judiciously to augment NLIS could be quite cost effective.
Perceptions, concerns and experiences around traceability, DNA technologies, costs and willingness to pay were explored through industry consultations. Application of genomic technology for traceability alone was not generally seen as attractive, but the ancillary benefits that accompany lifetime traceability would make the value proposition more attractive.
There are instances of DNA already being used to augment traceability and there is a strong argument for taking a proactive approach to coordinating its wider use. The longer the delay, the greater the costs and difficulties arising from fragmentation. A program of work with a series of stop/go decision points is proposed, to be coordinated and overseen by an appropriately-qualified steering group.