Seeing the future of animal ID


While most U.S. beef producers are having a hard time coming to grips with livestock traceability, a Japanese cattle company is taking animal ID to the next level.
Kiyota Beef, a Japanese cattle feeder, is using U.S. retinal imaging technology to identify its cattle. The first set of images was collected last month and the same animals will be imaged at the slaughterhouse.
The eye’s vascular pattern is unique among animals, even twins and clones.
Japanese consumers are very concerned about food safety, said Kiyota Beef President Hironori Kiyota in a May 2 news release. (I think the Japan-blocked U.S. beef industry finally figured that out.)
His company plans to market a source-identified, branded product, using the retinal imaging ID as a selling point.
The technology was born at Colorado State University and a Fort Collins-based startup business, Optibrand, was built around the researchers’ software. Proof positive. What’s interesting about the Optibrand technology is that it links to a Global Positioning System receiver to establish a date, time and location trail for all animals scanned. The information is proof: This animal was at this place at this time.
Running the cattle through a typical squeeze chute, an operator can capture an animal’s retinal pattern in less than 15 seconds, Optibrand claims. It can be done at the same time the cattle are handled for other reasons.
A hand-held computer and digital video camera captures the image in as little as 1/19th of a second.
The verification system also works with other RFID tags to enter, track and manage production data. And it’s synched with the U.S. national ID program and producers can enter premise ID numbers to each scan.
Closer to home. Retinal imaging is catching on. In February, Optibrand hooked up with Indiana’s 4-H program to use retinal scanning to identify 4-H beef, sheep and goat projects.
The state adopted retinal imaging after Purdue researchers found the technology to be more accurate that nose prints for identifying cattle.
Twenty Indiana counties signed up to use the technology this year.
Sheep, goat and cattle projects must be scanned at enrollment, much like the current noseprinting or ear tagging process. When the animal arrives at the fair later this year, officials will be able to scan the animal to verify that it is the same animal originally enrolled.
Farm to table. You may think this sounds futuristic and won’t apply to you, but food traceability affects everyone from the producer to the retailer. Consumers want higher quality foods and they want assurances that tracking can pull unsafe foods from shelves, warehouses and freezers.
I’m sure many thought bar codes would never be as universal as they are, but turn to Page 1 of this newspaper and look at the bottom of the index box.
The future is here.
(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at


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