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Queensland Tests RFID to Track Kangaroo Meat

Participating hunters are applying RFID tags to animals harvested in the field, in order to improve traceability and the recording of health-related information.
By Dave Friedlos
May 24, 2010The state government of Queensland, Australia, is funding a trial of radio frequency identification technology to track kangaroos from harvesting by hunters in the field to their arrival at a processing factory.

In February of this year, Tim Mulherin, Queensland's primary industries and fisheries minister, announced funding of $61,000 to improve the traceability of wild kangaroo meat, and to adhere to the demands of overseas markets.

Tim Mulherin, Queensland's primary industries and fisheries minister
Nick Swadling, the emerging industries development officer at the state's Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), says the current paper-based tracking system is no longer adequate to meet international demands.

"The current system has been in use since the early '80s and, like many manual paper-based systems, is prone to problems such as omissions of information and errors," Swadling says. "An automated system, such as RFID, ensures accuracy of the information. It is increasingly a market requirement, in places such as the European Union, to have a high degree of accuracy and verification when harvesting animals to ensure health and safety information is accurate. A high degree of traceability is vital if we are to regain the Russian market or capture new, emerging markets, such as China."

Last year, Russia banned the importation of kangaroo meat from Australia, which accounts for approximately 70 percent of international demand, after a number of consignments were found to be tainted with E. coli bacteria.

The trial began this week and is set to run until the end of June. The wild kangaroos will be harvested by hunters in Goondiwindi, a town in southern Queensland. Four kangaroo hunters, who sell the carcasses to field depot operators, will apply some 2,000 tags, similar to small wristbands, to the legs of the animals they have shot. Two field depot operators, which purchase the carcasses from the hunters, will then read the tags upon collection before the animals are transferred to the Ipswich-based Game Meat Processing Co.

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