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Norwegian Food Group Nortura to Track Meat

The company's IT subsidiary, Matiq, is teaming with IBM to deploy a system that uses RFID to track meat from the slaughterhouse to the store.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 22, 2008Norway's largest food supplier, Nortura, is launching a system that will employ RFID to track meat from its butchering and processing plant to the store, with a long-term goal of tracing chicken, beef, lamb and pork from an animal's birth to the consumer's plate. The expansive plan is beginning with phase one of a pilot involving Nortura's information technology subsidiary, Matiq. IBM is providing software and integration services for the project.

Several years ago, Matiq began researching RFID technology options for tracking meat as it moves from the processing plant to the store. More recently, it joined with IBM to plan Nortura's first pilot, which will launch this fall at two animal harvesting facilities, one distribution center and one supermarket.

Matiq CEO Are Bergquist, with pig.

Interest in animal tracking is not new to the Norwegian food industry. The nation's government has set a 2010 deadline for standards and policy regarding food traceability as part of its e-Traceability (eSporing) program, intended to increase food safety through visibility from the farm to the store.

Nortura is Norway's largest food supplier, providing 54 percent of the consumer meat products sold in the country and 73 percent of the animals butchered. Because the company accounts for a majority of the market, it sells a percentage of its meat to competitors, as required by federal regulations, so meat often passes from a farm to Nortura, then on to another meat-processing firm before arriving at a store. This makes the food that much more difficult to trace.

With such complexity in the meat supply chain, says Are Bergquist, CEO of Matiq, Nortura has been interested in gaining increased visibility into where its meat comes from and when it is processed, as well as the animal's age and what it has eaten. "For quite some time," he says, "we've noted an increased demand for a [system] in which to find out where food is coming from."

This demand comes not just from the government, Bergquist notes, but also from consumers and retailers, who would appreciate having greater knowledge about meat sold in stores. With an RFID tracing system, he explains, retailers could better track their inventory, assure customers that meat is fresh and also provide them with details about the meat, such as where it came from. Still, Bergquist says, there has been little effort from much of the meat industry to address this problem—in large part because the supply chain is so complex.

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