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Traceability -- A Literature Review

Dawn Trautman, Ellen Goddard and Tomas Nilsson ()

No 52090, Project Report Series from University of Alberta, Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology

Abstract: In light of recent food safety crises and international trade concerns associated with food or animal associated diseases, traceability has once again become important in the minds of public policymakers, business decision makers, consumers and special interest groups. This study reviews studies on traceability, government regulation and consumer behaviour, provide case studies of current traceability systems and a rough breakdown of various costs and benefits of traceability. This report aims to identify gaps that may currently exist in the literature on traceability in the domestic beef supply chain, as well as provide possible directions for future research into said issue. Three main conclusions can be drawn from this study. First, there is a lack of a common definition of traceability. Hence identifying similarities and differences across studies becomes difficult if not impossible. To this end, this study adopts CFIA’s definition of traceability. This definition has been adopted by numerous other agencies including the EU’s official definition of traceability however it may or may not be acceptable from the perspective of major Canadian beef and cattle trade partners. Second, the studies reviewed in this report address one or more of five key objectives; the impact of changing consumer behaviour on market participants, suppliers incentive to adopt or participate in traceability, impact of regulatory changes, supplier response to crisis and technical description of traceability systems. Drawing from the insights from the consumer studies, it seems as if consumers do not value traceability per se, traceability is a means for consumers to receive validation of another production or process attribute that they are interested in. Moreover, supply chain improvement, food safety control and accessing foreign market segments are strong incentives for primary producers and processors to participate in programs with traceability features. However the objectives addressed by the studies reviewed in this paper are not necessarily the objectives that are of most immediate relevance to decision makers about appropriate traceability standards to recommend, require, subsidize etc. In many cases the research objectives of previous work have been extremely narrow creating a body of literature that is incomplete in certain key areas. Third, case studies of existing traceability systems in Australia, the UK, Scotland, Brazil and Uruguay indicate that the pattern of development varies widely across sectors and regions. In summary, a traceability system by itself cannot provide value-added for all participants in the industry; it is merely a protocol for documenting and sharing information. Value is added to participants in the marketing chain through traceability in the form of reduced transactions costs in the case of a food safety incident and through the ability to shift liability. To ensure consumer benefit and have premiums returned to primary producers the type of information that consumers value is an important issue for future research. A successful program that peaks consumer interest and can enhance their eating experience can generate economic benefits to all sectors in the beef industry. International market access will increasingly require traceability in the marketing system in order to satisfy trade restrictions in the case of animal diseases and country of origin labelling, to name only a few examples. Designing appropriate traceability protocols industry wide is therefore becoming very important.

Keywords: Agricultural and Food Policy; Consumer/Household Economics; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Health Economics and Policy; International Relations/Trade; Livestock Production/Industries; Marketing; Production Economics (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 148
Date: 2008
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr and nep-mkt
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DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.52090

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