Academic journal article Competition Forum

The National Animal Identification System: Ensuring the Competitiveness of the American Agriculture Industry in the Face of Mounting Animal Disease Threats

Academic journal article Competition Forum

The National Animal Identification System: Ensuring the Competitiveness of the American Agriculture Industry in the Face of Mounting Animal Disease Threats

Article excerpt


This article provides an overview of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a joint industry-government program being undertaken to protect both animal and public health and the health of the American agriculture industry. The article examines the rationale for the nation to have a uniform, comprehensive animal ID system in place. Then, the implementation plan for the program to be fully operational by the 2009 target date is discussed The article concludes with a look ahead at the importance of the NAIS in the context of the growing area of RFID (radio frequency identification).

Keywords: Animal Identification, Foreign Animal Disease, Data Management, Agribusiness, Food Marketing, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)


The size and scope of the American animal agriculture industry makes it a vital part of the U.S. economy. Consider that the U.S. beef industry:

* Produces 25.6 billion pounds of beef available for consumption, worth approximately $35 billion annually.

* Oversees 95 million head of cattle, out of which approximately a third are commercially slaughtered each year.

* Employs over 800,000 workers at over a million farms, ranches, and support/processing services, spread across the nation, as cattle are raised in all 50 states (United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2006; National Cattleman's Beef Association, 2005).

The productivity of the American animal agriculture industry is outstanding. Consider that the U.S., which has less than 10% of the world's cattle inventory, produces nearly 25 percent of the world's beef supply (National Cattleman's Beef Association, 2005). Likewise, in the pork industry, which provides another approximately 800,000 jobs and produces over $72 billion in total domestic economic activity annually from the production of 19 billion pounds of pork from 97 million hogs, accomplishes this through scale and the efficiency it brings. In fact, while there were almost 3 million locations raising hogs in the 1950s, there are 85,760 pork operations today. However, hog farming operations have grown dramatically in size, with nearly 80 percent of the hogs raised on farms that produce 5,000 or more hogs per year (National Pork Producers Council, 2004). Similar productivity can be found in the poultry industry, where the combined value of production from broilers, eggs, turkeys, and the value of sales from chickens in 2004 was $28.9 billion (U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, 2005).

The health of America's animal agriculture industry is thus vital to the health of America's economy. Today, that health is threatened by the specter of foreign animal diseases (FADs) that could not only endanger human health, but necessitate the wholesale slaughter of entire animal populations and jeopardize entire sectors of the animal agriculture industry. Mad cow disease and bird flu are thus very serious business - both from a public and animal health and economic perspective. For instance, estimated cumulative losses in the U.S. beef industry, due to the first two confirmed mad cow cases, have totaled in excess of $4.5 billion (National Cattleman's Beef Association, 2005). Now, in 2006, there has been the confirmation of a third case of mad cow in Alabama (Knickerbocker, 2006). The ripple effects of these cases are likely to be significant throughout the U.S. economy, as more and more, beef will not be "what's for dinner" on American tables, as well as hurting the almost half a billion dollar export market for U.S. beef. In response, a joint government-industry effort is underway to gain better visibility and control over both animal management and health.

In the U.S., well before the 2003 mad cow case, the agriculture industry and the government - both at the federal and state levels - have recognized the need for uniquely identifying animals. Since the 1940s, the U.S. …

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