The poultry chain is very complex and vulnerable to many problems related to food safety. Consumer culture is driving an important revolution in building brands. Product information transparency is the top most priority for today’s consumers. The increasing demand for animal protein products like eggs and meat, consumer awareness on food safety, low environmental impact, and better animal welfare has spurned the advent of poultry traceability solutions in the poultry sector.
According to ISO, traceability is the “ability to follow the movement of food through specified stages of production, processing and distribution.” Traceability is the ability to identify the origin of food and the food sources by using the one–step-back and one-step-forward principle.
The poultry traceability system locates a product through the stages of handling feeds, primary production, manufacture, processing, distribution, and final consumption in a poultry supply chain. It helps in the identification of the non-conformity of a product and enables timely product recalls thereby preventing unsafe food from reaching the end consumer.
Traceability is one of the best practices in the food and agriculture industry. It assures food safety and consumers can take informed decisions about their buy.
Consumers today want to know where their food comes from, who produced it, how they are processed, and whether they are fresh, nutritious, and hazard free for consumption.
Shoppers today want to trust brands that do not hide anything from them. The heart of traceability is this trust. Visibility of information provided by traceability systems allows agri-food businesses to manage risks and react immediately to emergency situations and assure safety and quality compliance of fresh food products
What is Poultry Traceability?
The journey of the chicken from the farm to the plate, with the ability to trace it right from the farm, the slaughter house, the delivery, and the supermarket shelf is traceability in poultry. Food safety starts at the farm and goes up to the consumer’s table.
Tracking from initial feeding, monitoring disease outbreaks, implementation of quality standards, and giving the history of the product would build customer trust and ensure food safety.
Comprehensive recording and traceability systems needs to be developed in the primary breeding, hatchery, and meat production stages of the poultry system to enhance productivity and also address public health issues.
There is a legal, regulatory, and market driven need for verifiable products and manufacturing processes. This would satisfy the audit requirements required to assure the customers.
Animals of similar source or products are identified by flocks (batches).
The harvesting, processing, storage and distribution differ for each batch including tracking information to end users and tracing information back to source.
The traceability system enables all the stakeholders in the food chain to trace the food products at all times and thereby provide the entire history of the product. This should include the treatments the product is subjected to in the harvest phase, the processing stage and transportation. And finally the consumers get alerted on expiry dates of food and any presence of food allergens.
In case of a disease outbreak due to microorganisms affecting the food safety, making timely product recalls protect consumer health.
Data capture and record maintenance are key factors for an effective traceability system. Outbreak of diseases necessitates identification and verification of the source of origin. This is possible with the use of RFIDs. RFIDs help in identifying the animal and collecting information for traceability purpose. Integration of Barcoding and Quick Response (QR) technologies convey the desired information to processors and consumers.
Traceability systems along with Information Communication Technologies can enable businesses to track and mitigate risks in real time. It helps to take informed decisions on increased market penetration and cost reductions.
Codex Alimentarius, or “the food code”, is the global reference on food standards for governments, the food industry and consumers. Codex has developed several standards on poultry products, poultry food labeling, food imports and exports and certification systems.
Poultry Traceability- Needs and Challenges
Globalization, trade policies and consumer demand for quality food have posed many challenges for the traceability of food products in the meat and poultry industries. Let us have a look at the challenges encountered in this supply chain and how to manage these complexities by developing traceability systems to help track the origins of raw animal foods.
Animal disease control
The issues of infectious diseases like the avian influenza virus whose circulation is a threat to public health, is a constraint to poultry production. Avian influenza also known as the ‘bird flu’ is a contagious viral infection in birds. Serious forms of this disease causes sudden poultry deaths.
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), lists this disease as very significant for animal and human health.
The disease transmission occurs through movement of infected poultry, movement of vehicles and equipment and exposure to contaminated organic material.
Due to the emergence of this disease, the incidents have caused a negative impact on the consumers about meat safety and decreased their confidence in the meat consumption.
Implementation of traceability in the poultry supply chain is effective in handling the food safety and quality issues.
The information available through tracking and tracing in a traceability system helps in recalling a contaminated product, thereby preventing it from reaching the final consumer.
All poultry operations have a personal identification number for tracking, which helps in isolating a disease struck zone and hence helps product recalls. The spread of disease in flocks would affect their health thereby incurring increased costs and production losses. Farm biosecurity mitigates risk by preventing the spread of these diseases assuring the safety of public health.
The elements of traceability of poultry include identification of flocks with registered numbers, details of birth, origin and destination, medical treatment, and vaccinations.
The traceability framework allows traceability based on electronic identification and improved information exchange.
Thus whenever an animal disease outbreak occurs, traceability systems reduce the response time by providing real time access to reliable information at any point in the chain.
This would reduce the scope of a food recall causing the least disruptions in trade.
Poultry Food safety and the consumer
Food safety is instrumental in consumer’s informed decisions about buying a product. The poultry bacteria like Salmonella serovars and Campylobacter spp. cause transfer of food borne diseases through the food chain.
The use of growth promoters in the form of antibiotics and drugs are emerging as a health hazard. Microorganisms get through in the gut of killed birds, slaughtering process, in de-feathering, in evisceration, and in transportation.
Today customers would rather choose quality over price of the product. Buyers today focus on transparency coupled with wellness parameters while purchasing their food.
Forward and backward traceability has the ability to track the movement of food through various stages in the supply chain empowering authorities to identify and eradicated the unsafe items from the chain, thereby ensuring only quality food reaching the consumer. Traceability makes the poultry chain more reliable and transparent .It enhances the consumer’s confidence in a brand.
Ensuring the traceability of animals and their products would decrease the use of drugs and antibiotics, control zoonotic pathogens thereby safeguarding consumer health. Tracing the materials which come in contact with food and controlling the hygienic processing would ensure product safety to the consumer.
The quality and health conscious consumers demand more information on the labels which these meat products carry. Labels are a sign of trust. Labels and traceability help consumers in inferring the quality of meat they consume. Specific labeling provides a direct link between the piece of meat and its origin.
RFID and barcode technologies are widely implemented in traceability systems ensuring faster and cheaper collection and transfer of data. The different processing methods and packaging in the meat production industry pose a challenge to incorporate them in an efficient traceable system.
RFID readers collect and register the food traceability data and send it to the central database which the consumers can access in specific locations and get the required information.
One of the most often used two dimensional codes is the Quick Response (QR) code which stores enough data. This can be accessed by an appropriate reader like a barcode reader or a smartphone. The data in the food product QR code is a unique ID code that connects the user to the appropriate data in the database. It has good readability even in case of partial damage.
Traceability is becoming a game changer in this consumer driven market. People now can look forward to consuming healthy, fresh and cruelty free food. Trust is critical in influencing purchase intent and building long term relationships.
Adulteration of meat, substitution, mislabeling of products damages the reputation of the food industry. Incorrect labeling, the introduction of biological materials in the meat, and overlooking health and safety regulations have led to mistrust among the consumers in the market.
Food manipulation by using low quality ingredients in the manufacturing of the products and introducing additives to prolong shelf life have become global concerns in the poultry market.
The various food scandals like the bovine spongiform encephalopathy and the horse meat scandal have alerted consumers and attracted media, contributing to the necessity of traceability tools.
Product authenticity is a key necessity for accurate labeling of food. DNA barcoding techniques help in identifying raw materials and processed food. Traceability makes it easier to track adulterated and contaminated food. Regular auditing of records verifies the truthfulness of the product. This prevents food fraud and improves product marketability.
Optimization of the poultry chain
The poultry chain is complex with each part of the chain relying on the previous link, the supermarket and the consumers rely on the meat supply delivery people who in turn depend on the slaughter house, the broiler farm, and the hatchery, tracing backwards.
Each link has to optimize its own production. Working together, it can allow a quality product to reach the end consumer. This entails demand of supply chain transparency among the various stakeholders and checking for any suboptimal performances.
Depending on the geographical conditions in various parts of the country, the parameters in the supply chain like growth rate and mortality may vary. Decisions about hatching volume in a period, the number of breeding periods in a year, and the optimal combination of products are important.
There are other factors affecting food traceability systems like restrictions on market standardization, underdeveloped infrastructure in market and supply chains, and non-availability of cold chain facilities. There is a need for a robust cold chain for processing and storage. Retail refrigeration units are also becoming a necessity.
The poultry chain comprises of two parts, the processes, and stages associated with breeding till slaughter and the cold chain stage after the slaughter.
Optimization of the entire chain for an effective supply chain management system is possible through poultry traceability. Lending visibility and maintaining documented records all along the chain can avoid contaminations occurring in the storage and transportation stages. A transparent traceability system thereby limits these risks to the brand owner.
Poultry Traceability with the Blockchain
In a food safety management system, traceability depends on the correct collection and recording of data. Digital technologies provide accurate and efficient ways to track and trace the products and their movements along the supply chain. These technologies include product identification, information capture and analysis, and transmission of data.
Blockchain is a distributed decentralized secure database that automatically captures transparent, encrypted blocks of data from links in a supply chain and freely shares this information amongst all stakeholders in this chain, thereby enhancing transparency, accountability, and traceability in supply chains.
A poultry blockchain could track the chickens from farm to the plate. Every participant in the chain starting from the breeder to the retailer needs to input the information in the blockchain database. The input and output links from the breeder, hatchery, processor, retailer, transporters, veterinarians, and certification bodies get tracked. Food and water consumption, bird health and growth details, origin and transport details, manufacturing processes would be transparent all along the chain. Optimization of logistics, shipping details, and payments can increase efficiency.
Blockchain uses a distributed shared ledger that records transactions entered by the user. A sequential list of time stamped records gets generated in the network of users which are running the blockchain protocol and gets validated by nodes.
The distributed approach along with encryption and immutability makes it more secure and reliable. The participating nodes manage the network. Updating of information is done via consensus among all the players in the chain. This protects the integrity and eliminates any fraudulence.
The information stored in a blockchain serves as a verifiable and accurate record of every transaction made in the ledger as it does not get deleted. A decentralized database minimizes the risk of data corruption and delays in information processing.
The improved connectivity among participants and increased visibility helps consumers to know the origin of a product. All the consumer needs to do is scan a QR code. The chicken’s lifecycle is mapped and the entire information is available to him.
Coupled with other technologies like IoT, Big data, AI, and cloud computing, blockchain has revolutionized supply chain management and made it sustainable. Traceability becomes difficult when there is no method to record, authenticate and share data across the chain.
Blockchain provides a seamless interface with the various stakeholders along the chain and an immutable decentralized system that helps in ensuring a high level of security to protect the validity of data that is tracked.
The Indian Poultry scene
India is currently the third largest egg producer in the world as per the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2016 and the fifth largest producer of broiler production. India currently processes only 6% of poultry and 21% of meat.
According to the IMARC Group, the Indian poultry market reached a value of INR 1988 .billion in 2020 and it expects the market to grow at a CAGR of 15.2% during 2021-26. The production of eggs and broilers has been rising at a rate of 8 to 10% per annum.
With 10 lakh poultry farmers producing around 851.8 million birds on an annual basis, poultry contributes Rs 1.3 lakh crore to the national GDP.
Poultry farming has transformed from backyard farming to a full-fledged industry due to the presence of many players, sizeable investments, and the growing health consciousness and demand for protein rich animal food among consumers.
- Urbanization has made poultry meat a staple food rather than a delicacy.
- Growth in the food restaurant and fast food sector has created a positive impact on the consumption of meat and eggs.
- The customer today does not want to buy chicken from a local butcher shop, he wants transparency and information on the product provenance and how safe their food is.
- While the poultry market is predominately fresh meat, processed meat accounts for just 5 to 10 %, so there is a clear opportunity for this to increase. The need for hygienically packed meat especially during Covid norms, customers will demand traceability and processed meat is the answer as it could adhere to quality requirements.
- Increasing awareness on hygiene has provided opportunities in farm automated abattoirs and point of sale cold storage infrastructural facilities.
- Technology transformation in the retail sector in the coming days could spurn Omnichannel business in this sector.
- Projections suggest that by 2023, the country may produce 136 billion eggs and 6.2 ml t poultry meat. The per capita annual chicken consumption in India is 850gms while it is 350gms in rural areas against the world average of 9.5 kg. This clearly indicates the scope for growth.
- India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority(APEDA), a government body responsible for promoting the export of farm products has removed ‘ halal’ from its manual on red meat under the new rules where meat from India no longer needs halal certification- following Muslim rules before export.
Several countries have gone through mandatory regulations for food traceability systems and India needs to walk through the traceability journey to capture the export market.
The implementation of quality assurance systems has influenced the adoption of traceability systems in India. The Indian government is working with state and central governments including FSSAI, APEDA, NABARD, GS1 India, and other private entities for developing food traceability systems in this food sector.
To ensure robust and consistent demand growth along with compliance to food safety norms, the industry has to win consumer trust and this is possible only with Transparency and Traceability in the value chain.
Also, the transition of a live bird market to a frozen market would be crucial in increasing the presence of our country in international trade. Traceability would provide the required fillip for the export of poultry products which in turn would be a boon to the farmer.
Implementing a traceability system across poultry supply chains in towns and cities and in the entire country would position India better in the global market. Building cross border transparency would rebrand India as a major supplier of fresh poultry
Invest in us @ TraceX technologies for food traceability solutions
We at TraceX are on a mission to revolutionize the agri-supply chain by leveraging technology to connect multiple stakeholders across the food and agri-supply chain. Our blockchain solutions push towards supply chain transparency making consumers aware about the provenance of their food.
Securing digital records and monitoring supply chain management builds traceability of the product. The forward and backward traceability aids in faster product recalls and reduction in food wastage.
Interfacing with Mobile, APIs, web, and IoT devices enables the capture of data across the supply chain and gets pushed into a real-time blockchain ledger creating a digital identity for the product.
Our solutions would map the relevant information for sustainable production throughout the poultry chain and set up an information system to keep all the actors in sync. A permissioned blockchain using a simple QR code traces and verifies the journey of food in the supply chain. The customers can scan the code to get the details of the lifecycle of the product.
The poultry chain elements consisting of the feed mills, breeding units, hatcheries, broiler farms, slaughter houses are technology enabled and run on a blockchain platform that captures all the data at every point in the chain, providing 100% traceability for the produce. Mitigating the risk of counterfeit, end to end visibility, and building trust with traceability at the core will result in a sustainable value chain for the poultry industry.
We at TraceX want to support transformation and develop sustainable practices for a healthier planet through our Traceability solutions. We would want to join hands with the entities that are disrupting this agro-food sector and help them in building trustworthy brands