9 facts about food safety

9 facts about food safety

The nasty business of foodborne illness is unfortunately a reality, even in the most advanced society. With global food demands meeting the exponential growth of our population, food production is a massive, convoluted industry. Ultimately, while the food industry has evolved, the risks of foodborne disease are much the same, on a far greater scale.

An interplay of factors can easily cause the growth of dangerous bacteria which is why food safety is so important. Food safety is paramount in a world where produce can become contaminated at any point during its production, dissemination and preparation. Each phase of the production chain has a role to play to ensure the food we eat does not cause illnesses. This is where the importance of traceability in food safety is most significant. Accountability and early detection in food contamination is paramount.

Food traceability trends, from field to plate

Food traceability trends, from field to plate

Food traceability systems in the context the food trade, are used as a “quality index” and are a major feature in the contemporary produce supply chain. Traceability of produce remains a major function of the contemporary food industry.

Ultimately, the practical functions of food traceability are identified as causal factors in global traceability trends. Members of the public and have become more conscious of food safety, sustainability, ethics and accountability. These trends coupled with the continual growth of the food industry assert the place of traceability in our food practice norms. Food traceability software is a growing global trend.

Food Technology: Why Traceability is Important

While beef has become the mainstay of traditional meals, less and less consumers are purchasing and eating meat. With a number of influencing factors that have the ability to control this statistic, it is important to take a look at one factor that has become a juggernaut in the consumer buying process. This factor, for lack of a better label, is known as ‘food awareness’ and has allowed the consumer to tap into the agricultural processes of their food, from farm to table. Previously, these processes were only understood by breeders, processors and retailers. However, a call for transparency has been met with a flood of information pertaining to meat, with a massive focus on beef.

Due to this transparency and the weight of influence that it carries when it comes to the consumer’s buying decision, it has become increasingly important to implement a method of traceability that allows for a certain level of disclosure when it comes to beef products. Other influencing factors include personal health, environmental impact, welfare and safety, each equally affluent when it comes to influencing the buyers decision when purchasing beef.

With regular reports of meat contamination – with hormones, antibiotics and bacteria alike – traceability has become an important factor that aims to strengthen the relationships that brands have with their consumers. It allows retailers to connect more intimately with their consumers, thus strengthening the relationships between the farmer, processer or retailer, building greater trust and loyalty across the board. Not only does traceability build better connections between consumers and retailers, but it also ensures accountability across the protein value chain – from farm to table – which assists in reputational management in the event of an incident. Today, with a number of incidents that highlight the use and prevalence of Ractopamine and Glyphosate in red meat, traceability has become increasingly important in assuring the consumer of a genuine, drug-free meat product that meets their expectations.

While traceability is important to the future of large beef corporations, it is also a tool that appears futuristic in its nature. Today, we are equipped with software [link to: https://www.proteinvaluechain.com/protein-value-chain-platform/]that allows breeders, processors and retailers to track their product; however, the ever-increasing need for information permits a more tightly integrated flow of information – perhaps the future will allow retailers to provide the customer with the type of information that details the beef supply chain, from farm to table, and provide the transparency that details the way in which the animal was bred, raised, slaughtered, processed and packaged.

While entirely achievable, it is important to keep in mind the fact that traditional protein value chains will be required to transform into more efficient and better coordinated processes that eliminate a large portion of manual labour and documentation.  Not only would this transformation allow more detailed traceability but it would also drive better consumer relationships, resulting in higher levels of customer predictability with regards to particular beef products.

Not only does traceability build a stronger brand, it also drives customer loyalty, a factor that is necessary in a steadily declining market. Whether you’re a breeder, processor or retailer, be sure to contact us for more information on protein value chain traceability. Click here

How to Ensure Consistent Quality: Your Promise to the Consumer

When it comes to the promise of consistent quality, it is imperative to ensure that there is a symbiotic relationship, beyond the financial benefits, between the breeder, processor and retailer. Not only does this symbiosis ensure high standards of quality throughout the protein value chain, but it also ensures consistent trust between the brand and the consumer. It is important to remember that this symbiosis requires a reliable document management system that forces accountability and offers up traceability and transparency. This symbiosis can be achieved through protein value chain software that promises high rates of efficiency, reliability and traceability, from farm to table.

With beef supply chains up against a variety of new influencers when it comes to purchasing decisions, reliable quality is a factor that simply cannot be compromised. Not only does it affect the way in which the consumer views the brand but it is also an important factor when it comes to turning a profit and, with the super power of reputation management, it is imperative to remain consistent when delivering a product. Regardless of your position – whether you are a breeder, processor or retailer – implementation of an integrated supply chain management system is imperative as it ensures a tested and healthy beef product which feeds right into the needs of the consumer. If you’re in a position to recommend protein value chain software, take a look at the benefits beyond quality:

1.       Traceability

With a more educated consumer, it is imperative to ensure a better integrated supply chain management method. Not only does traceability ensure that the consumer’s needs are met, but it also ensures accountability when it comes to the output of the product.

2.       Reputation

If your end product were to be defective, it is imperative to identify where exactly things went wrong. A beef supply chain system would track the detail of every step taken to produce a product, and will track where the process went awry.

3.       Consistency

Not only will a management system ensure consistent quality but it will also ensure consistency throughout the process. From deliveries to cuts of meat – a reliable management system will ensure that uniformity remains a priority throughout the process.

4.       Efficiency

A beef chain management system will ensure a more efficient process as it eliminates the need for a handful of manual steps and paper document management. Cloud based and reliable, a beef management solution will ensure higher efficiency rates with more accurate data collection. 

If you’re looking for more information on a reliable and innovative protein supply chain management solution, click here

Improving the Consumer Experience

As of 2014, in a study conducted by the Heinrich Böell Foundation, an estimated 517 000 heads of cattle are slaughtered per year1, with America being the largest group of consumers in the world. Regardless of the large amount of beef available to the market, retailers now have to compete with a number of factors that influence the buying decision – from personal health to transparency. Ultimately, retailers (as well as breeders and processors) are dealing with a more educated consumer; one that bases his or her purchasing power on a variety of emotional factors. Due to this change in customer needs, it is imperative to improve the customer experience if retailers hope to retain their reputation and remain at the top of their game.

From maggots to pesticides, people around the world come into contact with harmful additives or bacteria in their red meat. There are also animal right groups and health professionals that promote a variety of diets – from vegetarian lifestyles to more conscious eating habits – both creating the type of influence that quickly became precursors to a heightened sense of food awareness, and a more aware consumer. Today, consumers are either boycotting the meat industry or they are looking for a more transparent way in which to interact with their retailer in an effort to gain a better understanding of the type of treatment to which their food was exposed; this ranges from the way in which the cattle was bred to the way in which it was fed, slaughtered and packaged. A more aware consumer also means a more health-conscious consumer that is very quick to point fingers at retailers that sell beef that has no traceability – it begs the question of whether or not their meat is a genuine, antibiotic and drug-free product.

One way in which to improve the customer experience is to ensure transparency in the retail sector. While the consumer does not need to be exposed to a plethora of detail, it is important to tap into their fundamental needs and, according to a study conducted by Deloitte2, these needs are highlighted as the following:

1.       Personal Health – how does the meat affect their personal health? Is it free of hormones, antibiotics and bacteria?

2.       Environmental Impact – how does their food affect the health of the environment? See what goes into a Quarter-Pound Hamburger here

3.       Welfare – how was the animal treated and was it slaughtered in an ethical way?

4.       Safety – has the meat passed the necessary tests to ensure that it is safe for consumption?

By understanding these needs, retailers are able to establish a level of predictability, and predictability is equal to a more efficient purchasing trend. This is due to the fact that the consumer’s needs are being met continuously.  It also forces retailers to take accountability for their product and how they go about marketing it.

When it comes to improving the customer experience, it is imperative to consider the necessary tools – how does on go about ensuring this transparency? One way in which to do so is to implement a reliable protein value chain management system in which breeders, processors and retailers alike are held accountable for the output of their product. If you’re looking for more information, click here

1.       How People Consume Meat Around The World CHARTS. Megan Willett. Jan. 13, 2014.

2.       Capitalising on the shifting Consumer Food Value Equation. Deloitte. 2015

THE CASE FOR INTEGRATED SUPPLY CHAINS

Author: Tim Shaw – Head of Research, Wheatsheaf Group

 

As consumer expectations around food production in the developed world are changing, businesses in the food chain can win new customers and strengthen brands through better information.

A nationwide survey of US food consumers by Deloitte  identified that buying decisions are no longer influenced by just cost and convenience; a more complex set of drivers are now at play. 

Concerns around personal health, environmental impact, welfare, safety and transparency are now guiding buying decisions more strongly than ever before. The consumer intelligence group, Nielsen , reported in its survey on Global Health and Wellness that Generation Z and Millennial consumers are much more interested in sustainably-sourced food and are willing to pay a premium for it, compared to the Baby Boomer generation.  

Greater access to information has been at the heart of this change. Moreover, in the social media age the consumer has more power than ever before to influence the buying decision of others. The speed at which a false food story can circulate creates a major reputational risk for stakeholders across the food chain. 
 
In order to gain customers and protect or strengthen brands in this new marketplace, retailers need to connect more intimately with consumers to understand their expectations and to address the information deficiencies within their supply chains to build greater trust and loyalty. 

 

Capitalising on the growth in grass-fed beef

The growth of the ‘health’ and ‘environment’ conscious consumer is none more evident than in the market for beef.

US per capita beef consumption has been falling for several decades, partly in response to price increases (particularly relative to pork and poultry) but also in response to increasing report around the negative impact of consuming too much red meat.  
  
However, even within declining markets there are segments that offer growth opportunities. According to analysis by the Wallace Centre of the Winrock Foundation, retail sales of US grass-fed  beef amounted to $400m in 2013, compared to less than $5m in 1998. Over the last decade they estimate demand for grass-fed beef has grown 25% per annum and yet, this still only represents 5% of the total US retail beef market.  

The first instance of BSE in the US4 in 2003, and the resulting increase in food safety concerns, may have helped to stimulate interest in the sub-category but there has also been a growing consumer perception for grass-fed beef to be more natural and therefore a healthier option than the grain-fed equivalent (higher nutrient content, lower fat). Irrespective of the scientific basis for these claims, such perception has seen US consumers be willing to pay well over double the price for grass-fed beef versus grain-fed. 

In addition to perceived health benefits, the grass-fed beef consumer does not so much as want, but expect their product to be free from antibiotics, hormones, additives and preservatives. They expect that compared to grain-fed cattle raised on industrial feedlots, grass fed animals are treated better, causing a much lower negative impact upon the environment over their lifetime.

A vision of the future

How should retailers and the underlying supply chain think differently in order to win over this emerging class of consumer in a category such as beef? 

Transparency and traceability will be core to the new way of thinking – but it requires the beef supply chain to become more tightly integrated when it comes to the flow of information; from ranch to fork but also, and crucially, from fork to ranch. A more health-conscious and sustainability aware beef consumer needs to be able to trust the retailer to be delivering a genuine grass-fed beef product that meets expectations. They want to be able to see that their choice of grass-fed beef has had the impact that they paid a premium for. 

What if every packaged portion of grass-fed beef came with a printed QR label that consumers could scan with their smart phones? Such scan could reveal the whole history of that product, providing a clear chain of information to verify that the animal had been raised and slaughtered to the standards expected by the consumer. Perhaps it could also give comparative statistics on CO2 equivalent emissions and water consumption versus grain-fed beef. Furthermore, as reliable metrics emerge, information could also be provided on the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil by using the land for pasture rather than for crops and applying a suitable grazing management system. 

Also, what if, the rancher and processor could access information from their smartphones detailing the exact qualities and cuts that consumers are demanding in order to tailor their systems to deliver a more consistent supply of what consumers are going to be asking for several months ahead?

 

Can this vision be made into reality? 

In order for retailers to raise their level of disclosure to consumers it is evident that traditional beef supply chains need to be transformed. 

Between the ranch and the slaughterhouse a retailer would currently have to connect with potentially thousands of small to mid-sized businesses. In addition to collating paper records and RFID tag information, a retailer would have to coordinate ranch-level audits to verify that each rancher had reared their cattle in-line with an appropriate industry standard for grass-fed beef. 
 
It is noted though, that what is considered the standard for grass-fed beef has become more open to interpretation since the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service withdrew its official definition for grass-fed in early 2016. One can still achieve verified status from the USDA, but it requires retailers to collaborate with the supply chain in order to set out minimum criteria and metrics.  

At a traditional slaughterhouse animals might arrive from multiple ranches, making the task of tracing the animal from one particular ranch through to the end cut very difficult

 

Coordinate your vertical

Creating this clear chain of custody and flow of producer/processor information to the retailer requires a constant coordination of activity and data recording. This is why so many food retailers and processors are seeking to create an integrated beef supply chain. 

An integrated chain begins with a clear vision of what the rancher, processor and retailer are working together to produce – a verified, safe, healthy and antibiotic free beef product. A vertically integrated chain can then seek collective agreement around the standards required in order to make these claims on the product label. These can then be approved as a USDA Process Verified Program .
  
In integrating their supply chain, retailers will seek to work with specific ranches and slaughterhouses that are willing to sign up to the program and adhere to its code.  
 
The key enabler to vertical coordination and the requisite regulatory approval is a strong document management system. Certification and trust cannot be attained without it. 

Retailers must think about what document management system they should implement in order to make the process of documenting how the animal is reared and slaughtered as seamless as possible for the program members. Creating digital, rather than paper records that can be completed on a smartphone, and connecting sensor data streams to a central data repository, are both choices that can deliver significant savings on time and labour. Uploading cutting plans and meat grades in real time can also increase the efficiency of inventory management. 

Finally, an electronic management system provides retailers with all the evidence they need to build trust, differentiation and customer loyalty for their products. FarmWizard, a Wheatsheaf subsidiary company has created the first commercially available protein value chain software that can deliver an end-to-end solution for integrated supply chains.

www.proteinvaluechain.com

About Wheatsheaf Group Limited
 
Wheatsheaf was established at the beginning of 2012 by Grosvenor Estate. Its remit is specifically to develop and invest in businesses that will contribute solutions towards meeting the global challenge brought about by a rapidly changing world population and its demands for food, energy and water in an increasingly resource constrained environment.

http://www.wheatsheafgroup.com/ 


About the Grosvenor Estate
 
The Grosvenor Estate represents all of the assets and business interests, including rural estates owned by trusts on behalf of the Grosvenor family headed by the Duke of Westminster. The three key elements are Grosvenor Group, an international property group active in 60 cities around the world
(including Vancouver since 1953); Wheatsheaf Group, which comprises investments in sustainable food and energy initiatives together with a number of trading companies in the North West of England; and the Family Investment Office which includes 5 rural estates in the United Kingdom and Spain and a charitable foundation. The Grosvenor Estate employs more than 1,100 people, whilst relating to many more through its ownership and management of land and property.

http://www.grosvenorestate.com/