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Opportunities for utilizing DNA-based technologies to enhance traceability and profitability in the Australian Red Meat Industry

ISC was interested to understand whether there was opportunity to use DNA-based technologies to enhance traceability in the Australian red meat industry.

Project start date: 28 March 2021
Project end date: 04 December 2020
Publication date: 08 August 2022
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grain-fed Cattle, Grass-fed Cattle, Sheep, Goat, Lamb
Relevant regions: National
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Genotyping has potential as a traceability technology in the red meat industry. The potential goes across live animal identification, as well as product verification, and therefore genotyping is a promising technology for end-to-end traceability and could deliver many outcomes. There are several benefits of using genotyping such as on farm management, managing theft, establishing lifetime traceability and providing evidence for provenance claims. Yet, implementation of the technology poses several challenges and costs. A detailed assessment of the benefits against the costs is required to develop a business case for implementation of genotyping technologies within the traceability system. This project was co-fund initiative between Food Agility CRC and Integrity Systems Company.


This scoping study had the following objectives:
• Assesses the genotyping (DNA) technologies that are best suited for traceability.
• Evaluates the benefit/cost of using DNA for traceability as well as ancillary benefits that are achievable.
• Describes how such a traceability system could work and the distribution of benefits
• Identifies the risks, costs, barriers to adoption and how these should be addressed
• Describes a process to resolve technical and strategic issues prior to implementation

Key findings

Modelling indicated that the additional value of traceability expected from genotyping the entire national beef herd is unlikely to compensate for the additional costs involved. However, tactical genotyping can lead to a net increase in benefits due to traceability of 11-37% compared with NLIS alone. When additional benefits were taken into account, the net benefits of genotyping were 32-45% higher than the benefits currently attributed to NLIS.

Genotyping the national sheep flock is prohibitively expensive and clearly impractical. However, enhancing NLIS with tactical genotyping could be cost-effective in improving traceability and lead to better-inform ram purchasing decisions.

There are already instances of DNA being used to strengthen traceability and any implementation of a national program should be preceded by careful planning to avoid added costs and difficulties arising from fragmentation.

Benefits to industry

Improved traceability enhances the industry’s ability to track, manage and control major exotic disease outbreaks. Using DNA to enhance NLIS can lead to a range of additional benefits related to livestock evaluation, disease detection, pathway decisions, product specification and proof of provenance.

Future research

A program of work with a series of stop/go decision points is proposed, potentially leading to implementation of a national genotyping program designed to strengthen NLIS and to realise the additional benefits. This should be coordinated and overseen by an appropriately-qualified steering group.

More information

Project manager: Verity Suttor
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