The Shuswap Sheep Breeders Ass'n has raised this concern. It was also a matter of a side discussion in a traceability committee meeting that took place earlier this week in Halifax at a Canadian Federation of Agriculture meeting.

The concern is this: is there really a need to follow the RFID tagging routine when one is taking a lamb directly to a local abbatoir for processing and then returning it home?

In Canada, the rule that is emerging is that any animal that leaves the farm of origin needs to be tagged. That makes perfect sense when the animal is essentially going to change hands: go to auction, get fed into the supply-chain, be sold as a live animal to another private buyer, but not otherwise. Interestingly, it would appear that this is not an original thought. In the US and Austrailia (from the limited documentation I have read), the tagging rule applies to when the animal changes hands. What this means is that elsewhere, the tagging requirement is less restrictive as far as meeting the needs of the small producer is concerned.

Here's the argument: There is indeed a need for traceability; a need to be able to trace back to the farm of origin any animal. It is now an accepted health requirement that even for some places is leading to farm registration practices. Tagging is an effective way to do that, but it is not the only way. When I book a lamb for slaughter with the local abbatoir, I take the lamb to the abbatoir and once it is processed, I retrieve it and bring it home. It hasn't changed hands. There can be no confusion about being able to trace the event. The abbatoir has a record of having done the work. I have personally delivered and retrieved it.

I'm not sure how a RFID tag would play any role in this case, so why is it needed in a case like this? It seems to be an unnecessary step and, more importantly, an unnecessary additional cost when the cost of processing for lamb is already very high.

When I market lamb directly from the farmgate, meaning I take several lambs in for processing and personally retrieve them and sell them to my customers there is no additional benefit to tagging the sheep. Only if the lamb processed was separately boxed and each box was individually identified would that make a difference, but small abbatoirs don't do that and besides, I don't believe there is any onus on me to identify which part of the lamb came from which animal were I to sell legs to one customer and shoulders to another.

It would appear that to the small producer there is little need for having to take on the additional expense of tagging animals unless the animal is changing hands. I would like the rules for tagging reconsidered such that tagging becomes a requirement where the live animal is changing hands.

I would be interested in the comments of others on this concern.