To date, 26 processors have pledged to follow best practices established by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and more than 80% of the U.S. milk supply is now covered by voluntary dairy traceability guidelines, thanks to the recent pledge of another large dairy processor, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
This reaches a milestone as The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy set an 80% coverage goal when it released its traceability best practices in 2013. At that point, only five processors, covering 20% of the country's milk supply, immediately agreed to embrace the new standards.
Now, after three years, 26 processors have made the traceability pledge, including Agri-Mark, Dairy Farmers of America, Dean Foods, Land O’Lakes, Darigold/ Northwest Dairy, Michigan Milk Producers Assn. and Upstate Niagara Cooperative.
According to USDEC, traceability is the ability to track a product through all stages of production, processing and distribution. The industry guidelines focus on product flows, labeling, recordkeeping, data collection and other protocols from the plant to the supply chain to the end product manufacturer. The guidelines do not affect on-farm practices, however.
“We have reached 80% participation, which is great, but we still have more work to do to ensure traceability is recognized as a critical tool the U.S. dairy industry has in place for global dairy trade," said Dermot Carey, executive vice president of ingredients and global business development at Darigold.
Carey served as chairman of the Innovation Center’s traceability subcommittee when the voluntary traceability standards were originally announced.
“We want the United States to be the global leader in dairy traceability,” Carey added.
Traceability makes business sense
Vikki Nicholson, USDEC senior vice president of global marketing, said traceability allows a company to quickly identify if its products are included in a situation or not, which lots are involved and where the product is within the supply chain. “Timely, solid information like that can greatly minimize damage to your company’s brand and the broader U.S. dairy industry,” Nicholson said.
More companies are seeing the benefits of traceability, not only in safeguarding themselves against a potential food safety crisis but also in enhancing operational and logistical management.
“The beauty of adopting enhanced traceability best practices is that it forces you to evaluate your business operations, which can lead to improvements in recordkeeping, consistent lot identification and inventory management, just to start," Nicholson said.