In 2011, I wrote a Spotlight article on Michigan State University researchers using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track cattle. Michigan is the only state that requires electronic ear tags on cattle. The original purpose was to track the spread of tuberculosis. However, tracking can also assist the locavore who wants to know where that particular cut of meat comes from.
Listen to this broadcast that aired June 4 on NPR. It features MSU Department of Animal Science associate professor and Extension beef specialist Dan Buskirk. Dr. Buskirk explains the system that transferred the information from cattle ID tags to barcodes pinned to the carcasses. Butchers scanned the barcodes and printed new ones to go with the smaller pieces of meat they cut. The university’s food service used the meat to serve at campus cafeterias and restaurants. In a grocery store setting, shoppers could scan the bar code on a package of meat to find out the origin of the beef they will purchase. This gives producers the opportunity to add value to their product.