22 November 1996

Database is insurance against health scares

Public pressure put welfare at the top of the bill at Germanys international livestock show last week. Jonathan Riley reports

A NATIONAL computer database for beef cattle will be operating in Germany within the next 12 months to lessen the impact of future health scares.

So said Dr Peter Hamel of marketing group AGF. Speaking at the international livestock exhibition Eurotier 96 in Hanover, Germany, Dr Hamel said that the German medias coverage of the UKs BSE crisis provoked a 30% fall in beef consumption this year, even though only four cases of BSE had been recorded in Germany.

"For the long-term future of the German meat industry we must establish confidence so that any future health scares will not have such an impact," said Dr Hamel.

A single scheme backed by the German governments central marketing group and based on electronic tagging is being developed and administered by AGF.

All cattle born in Germany will carry an electronic tag. This will hold information on breeding, date and place of birth, feeding regime and the farming system that the animal has been reared on. The tags will be linked to the national database and records made available for any one wishing to access information.

Carcasses will be stamped with an identification number and country of origin, then labelled with the AGF logo and a barcode which will enable access to the central database.

The marketing groups logo will be printed on all meat products and used in supermarkets as a recognisable assurance of the meats wholesomeness.

Germanys media coverage of the UK BSE crisis provoked a 30% fall in beef consumption, said Peter Hamel of marketing group AGF.