The author explores the variations in the domestic livestock populations world-wide between 1961 and 1998, and observes a marked increase in the swine population, as compared to other domestic species. Trends in international trade of live animals over the same period are also analysed; international trade involved 1% of livestock world-wide and the international meat market constituted 10% of total meat production.
The various stages of the food chain are analysed, from farm to fork, with emphasis on those elements to which the concept of traceability is applicable; from the composition of bovines, to slaughter, and through the various products and sub-products all the way to the final product consumed. Against this background, the characteristics of identification systems for individual animals and animal products is described, as well as applications to traceback and trace forward.
To conclude, the author details the factors which influence the various processes of identification and traceability, and thus must be considered when choosing a system. The wide variability amongst systems world-wide is noted and attributed to the differences in sanitary and economic or socio-cultural criteria. The author therefore recommends that work should begin on international harmonisation of such systems.