Traceability Evolution – Meat and Poultry Industry

With standards and initiatives comes compliance and preparedness. Federal watchdogs can clamp down on food companies with mandatory recalls at any time. Is your company ready today to adhere or would this be extremely painful or worst yet not possible at all? If you can’t answer yes then you need to discuss traceability evolution.

Myth: Meat and poultry companies are different from other food sectors which limits their ability to adopt technology or participate in industry standards.

Fact: Just the opposite; the industry is leveraging technology to handle issues such as traceability and recalls in a big way. And here’s why…

Data Standards, like mpXML, are now recognized as one of the most comprehensive traceability initiatives in the food industry. Documents like A Model for the Adoption of Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) in the Meat & Poultry Supply Chain were adopted and have to be adhered to. The traceability evolution has begun.

Complex Food Chains – Traceability, Lot Tracking and Recalls

Food Chains are complex these days. Retailers, wholesalers, distributors and so on… raw materials coming from single or multiple sources, domestic and/or imported, make it difficult for accurate lot tracking and recalls.

The meat and poultry industries are no exception especially given the number of processing steps (catchweight, fixed weight, case-ready, tray-ready, store-processed, etc.), unique packaging and tracking issues, and variance in raw materials involved.

Ease of recording and retrieval of data items is critical. Items like receipt of bulk raw meat, ingredients and packaging; product creation; packaging/pallet configuration; and picking and shipping.

Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) and Key Data Elements (KDEs)

“There was general agreement at each meeting that Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) and Key Data Elements (KDEs) are helpful concepts to dealing with traceability.” – Journal of Food Science

A strong database (ERP, EDI, BI) and fully integrated software (data collectors like below) are required to handle CTEs or any occurrence involving an item within the supply chain, at a specific location and time, associated with the collection and storage of data useful for associating the item or related items to that occurrence, and determined to be necessary for identifying the actual path of an item through the supply chain.


More meat and poultry companies are moving toward the inclusion of machine-readable labels (barcodes) such as the GS1-compliant label used by the U.S. meat industry. Barcode scans can capture all traceable information and store it within the ERP or warehouse management system (WMS).

Case-Level Traceability

Meat and poultry suppliers need to be able to establish a case-level product protocol that can be used for traceability by supplier, retailer, wholesaler and distributor both in normal conditions and in the event of a recall.

Best practices for maintaining traceability include the capture of all traceable information (data collectors, mobility devices) and storage of information within your business systems—such as ERP and WMS—by scanning the information directly from the case. The risk of human error is reduced, and the data capture timeline is dramatically shortened, compared with having employees manually keying data into the system. Additionally, in the event of a recall, the company can quickly locate potentially contaminated products. Real-time barcode labeling on the shop floor or warehouse floor is possible with extended ERP and WMS functionality.


Once you decide to automate your operations, take your time to investigate which software systems are built with industry-specific functionality that can be mapped onto your business processes to resolve many of the issues around catchweights, multi-stage processing, scanning, labeling and other considerations for traceability. Pay particular attention to the automation of data capture, storage and retrieval for CTEs such as receipt of bulk raw meat, ingredients and packaging, product creation, packaging/pallet configuration, picking and shipping.

You are only as good as your partners and your technology when it comes to having the most efficient, quickest and most compliant processes in place. Working with a full offering plant management solutions software vendor is critical to making this transition work. Coolearth Software offers solutions working in unison for all phases of the ingredient tracking, inventory control, labeling, processing, packaging, warehousing, distribution and reporting operations. Let us know if you would like to learn more about what we can do for your organizations traceability evolution.

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