Tana at smallfarms sent me a more comprehensive article on the animal identification system (NAIS) that has small farmers up in arms.  The article suggests that the program was initiated by a group composed of big business (Cargill, Monsanto, medicine companies such as Pfizer, not to mention the companies that manufacture and sell the actual technology) to protect the agricultural export business.  The program claims to reduce the danger of disease in meat by being able to track the meat to its source.  While that’s probably important, no one says exactly how it will make meat safer or prevent illness.  In fact, no one seems to be actively speaking out on behalf of the program.  Perhaps because it’s simply to protect and strengthen factory farming—the abominations of which more people are becoming aware.  I guess an unintended but happy benefit to the food business giants is that the program  will put additional stress on the already beleaguered small farmer.  The program remains more or less voluntary, but it’s important for small farmers and everyone who supports them to be vocal about keeping it so.  See nonais.org for more on this.


19 Wonderful responses to “NAIS: Support and Strengthen Factory Farming!”

  • Claudia

    A Sicilian adage says, “A fish stinks from the head,” meaning that all corruption, incompetence, evil, etc., starts from the top down. As you correctly point out, Michael, being able to track meat to its source is not in and of itself an answer. Rather than requiring every animal to be micro-chipped and placing an onerous burden on small farmers, perhaps change from the TOP is what’s really required:


    But, as you said, I’m sure ConAgra and Monsanto an d all the agri-giants would b e only TOO happy to crush small, artisanal farmers under the beaurocratic/regulatory/economic wheel.

  • Tags

    There’s a simple reason why GW is against regulation. His money is in a blind trust while he’s the president. Regulation depresses stock prices. Don’t regulate anyone and there’s a better chance your stock will be worth more when you get to cash out. It’s a game of numbers.

  • Claudia

    Good point, Tags – and then, too, W’s administration hasn’t exactly been leading the charge on consumer health and safety, the environment, etc., etc. (PS – Tags – please e-me by clicking on my name. I would like to discuss something [else] with you off-board. bukigreco@aol.com)

  • Jennie/Tikka

    This is, I think – a pervasive issue in our entire economy. This is just one more area that the rule applies to. Since the Industrial Revolution (pardon my Unabombarism) our economy has been enamoured with large corporate giants and hostile towards small and medium business.

    Until we as a people lose our (sometimes unconscious) fascination with the ultra-rich and thier lifestyle, we will always have these issues in our economy.

    This to me sounds like Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” just re-cast in modern terms.

  • ScoobySnacks

    Implemented in stages, NAIS only has advantages. Being able to track animals through the transformation chain will enable the system to identify and correct mishaps in a quicker, safer and ultimately cheaper way.

    Just look at the mad-cow disease crisis we had a year back; with proper tracking mechanism, we would not have had to close off borders to beef, only identify potentially dangerous specimens.

    Just as long as the system is implemented top down, in staggered form; from the largest to the smallest producers, the economies of scale of the big guys will enable to smaller producers to deliver the solution at an affordable cost. The big guys win too, because their systems will be able to leverage the tracking system to improive their own productivity.

    The same thing happened 30 years ago in the retail sector when barcodes were introduced, and now the smallest retailers can afford them and it cost nothing to generate.

  • majikgodss

    Every animal does not have to be microchipped. There are many ways, such as ear tags, that animals can be tracked–in fact, RFID technology isn’t particularly encourged right now.

    The European Union has traceability regulations that are far beyond what the US is proposing–look at EU 178/2002. They still have small farmers–in fact, some of the countries seem to have nothing BUT small farms.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    While this is true, if we treated the animals properly (feeding them properly and butchering them properly) there would be no need for back-tracing them for problems.

    E-coli is a problem in the slaughtering/butchering process. Mad cow is because we are feeding them what we should not.

  • Tags

    In Europe, there’s been resistance, but as the siren song of cheap meat & higher profit beckons, Smithfield has made inroads that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.

    Corn fed Iberico ham ahead? Be very afraid.

  • David

    I don’t understand all the hate for huge farming facilities. The bottom line is this act is a great effective way to track animals so that maybe the spread of disease can be contained are easily tracked to a group of suspected cattle. If small farmers would take dangering the public for the ability to operate cheaper, I can not support them, and I will no longer try to buy their over priced goods.

  • Tags

    To read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma is to understand.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    David –

    The hatred is because the diseases they are attempting to track are 100% human error due to large facility practices. Without those practices you wouldn’t have those diseases to worry about.

    The “improvements” they boast of are simply in the profit margin for one single producer. The problems they create didn’t exist prior to their methods.

    Our grandparents didn’t worry about e-coli and cooking the meat to a certain temp (it was okay to eat rare steak back then). Why? What changed? The slaughtering practice changed, that’s what. And now we have e-coli to worry about. When a cow is butchered by a human being who can see what he’s doing, vs. a machine that can’t – you have issues (all cows aren’t exactly alike internally).

    Same with Mad Cow disease. It is a degenerative disease certain cows contract because of what they are fed (which I won’t go into here). Suffice it to say the cows are cannibalizing themselves, which is a cheap way to feed them, which creates disease.

    The industry created these issues. They aren’t really a problem at smaller operations. When was the last time you heard of an outbreak of Mad Cow among the Kobe herds?

  • NTSC

    Are you aware that the Fore of New Guinea are subject to a specific disease, laughing sickness, from eating the brains of their dead.

    Mad cow sure sounds similar.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Same thing, really. Cattle are being fed the ground up spinal column matter that they can’t sell, which is basically grey and white brain matter, which will eventually sicken the cows.

  • Jessica

    1. Japan has a WAY higher incidence of BSE (or Mad Cow as you put it) than the US. Even if you don’t do percentages and just do numbers–still more.

    2. It is still safe to eat a rare steak. You won’t get e. coli. The inside of meat is sterile, so as long as you get the outside hot, you’re fine. The problem with hamburger is that the insides and outsides are mixed up.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Jessica –

    1. I know. Two years+ in culinary school did teach me a piece or two of information about how e.coli is transmitted.

    2. You CAN get e.coli from a properly cooked steak. My spouse and I got sick on February 15th from a steak (yes, steak) at a local steakhouse. If you cook the steak and then pull it off the heat and say – put it on a dirty counter or a cutting board you just had raw fish on or another raw steak, you can still get food poisoning (e. coli or otherwise).

    So, okay bravo – the steak came from the purveyor (maybe) without any external contamination, but the a/c in the truck broke down on the way to your restaurant or supermarket and the meat stayed above 40 degrees for several hours. The restaurant signed off on the order and put it into the walk-in. It was back down to below 40 when they pulled it out for dinner service. But the guy cooking your steak was called off the grill and told to make a quick salad. He hasn’t washed his hands and he’s working raw lettuce after handling raw meat. Then he pulls your steak off the heat and puts it down on the fish cutting board he was just shucking some raw oysters on (he’s new and doesn’t know the color system, ooops). He’s tired and he wants a break so he goes to the men’s room. Its out of soap. He just so happens to be running a mild fever. He plates your food with bare hands.

    Any of those scenarios will potentially make you sick (even though the steak was properly cooked). Everything else has to be proper, too.

    So what happens? A bunch of people go home and feel just fine. Some of them will start to feel sick within a few hours – others won’t get sick for days or weeks. Most will think they have the flu (because they don’t know that food poisoning has the same symptoms) and won’t identify their problem as food poisoning. Most will say “I have the stomach flu” which doesn’t medically exist.

    Maybe everybody else did everything right – but the blades at the slaugherhouse nicked an intestine and it took a few minutes to notice it, stop the machines, and resanitize the blades. “Its rib eye” says the Manager, “they’re going to cook the outside and kill the e.coli so it’ll be just fine – besides, I’m in a hurry”. Or suppose its beef tenderloin but its going to be beef carpaccio and won’t get any heat at all.

    The information you just stated, Jessica, is exactly what the health department tells the public so they’ll eat fast food hamburgers again. Its a severely scaled down version of the entire scenario.

    3. Where are you getting your stats from?

  • Jessica

    What stats? That Japan has had more BSE than the US? I’m assuming you’ll trust the world’s association for animal health. Japan has had 32 cases versus the US’s 1–with a hellava lot less cattle. http://www.oie.int/eng/info/en_esbmonde.htm

    And although I’m sure that culinary school pumps you full of scientific knowledge, my BS in Animal Science, my Master’s in Food Science, and my three years that I have completed into my PhD in Meat Science have made me fully aware of how a person can end up with E.Coli.

  • susan

    There are a few comments here that seem to think NAIS will be beneficial. To refute your reasoning here are some facts about NAIS and why it is not a good thing and a little lesson in history.

    1. NAIS (national animal identification system),is a marketing plan for corporate ag. Big ag reaps all the benefits of NAIS (global market) while putting all the hard work of tagging and tracking and loss of livestock through depopulation on average livestock owner, even if that person owns only one livestock animal as a pet. Big Ag does not have to individually tag and track their animals, they get only one lot number per groups of animals.

    2. If disease is suspected the USDA can come in and depopulate a 6 mile radius (140 sq mi.)

    3. Livestock owners will be under closer surveillance than illegals, drug
    dealers, convicted six offenders/child molesters. Currently in the USA,
    only convicted six offenders/child molesters have to register their premises
    and file movement reports.

    4.By signing up for NAIS, title to property rights are clouded, basically
    making the owner little more than a sharecropper.

    5. What is so magical about the number 48 traceback? NAIS does not address
    the fact that many diseases are coming in with the Illegals, Newcastle disease in chickens and TB in a goat. But these were found without NAIS.

    6. The health claims of NAIS are a sham” because even the elaborate NAIS tracking of farm animals would end at the time of slaughter — and it is “from slaughter onward that most spoilage occurs. NAIS doesn’t trace any contamination after this final ‘event’ in the animals’ lives.”

    7. There are disease protocols in place that already work. NO foot and mouth in the US since 1929. NAIS would be a costly boondoggle.

    8. Many have been signed up for NAIS without their permission or knowledge (nearly 14,000 in Idaho). Would you like to be signed up, say for a new car lease without your permission or knowledge. be responsible for the monthly payments and not even sure the car will run?

    9. The reasons we are told NAIS is needed keeps changing. (Disease protection, bioterrorism, global market, etc) Yet when Creekstone Beef wanted to test every cow they process for BSE, the USDA says they cannot!!!Creekstone had to take the USDA to court to sue for the right to test for BSE!

    10. And what does my reporting to the USDA when I take my horse off my property have to do with big ag selling beef to Japan?

    Now for the history lesson….Tracking disease is not new. In 1938-Nazi Germany targeted one segment of society they thought responsible for spreading disease, the JEWS. A law was passed that ALL JEWS had to register their property.Every piece of property they own into a massive database. IT worked. The Gestapo knew exactly who to raid by the value of their art and jewelry. We know the rest of the story, a minor event called the Holocaust!

    In the same time period, the Russian Communist Govt under Stalin starved millions of farmers in the most fertile part of the country because the law stated that ALL the grain they grew belonged to the govt! They were not even allowed to eat what they grew!

    Several Constitutional rights/religious rights will be broken by NAIS regulations. How can the Amish comply with this program when they feel it will go against what they believe and they do not have electricity. How about the impoverished who keep a few animals yet can barely afford potato chips, let alone microchips. Then there is the Santeria religion, legal in the US, animal sacrifice is practiced (chickens and goats) often in city apartments. Will those animals be reported?

  • susan

    Let’s put the idea of NAIS in perspective of soccer moms. If THEY had to register their premises with the govt (thereby affecting title to their property) microchip their kids and file reports every time they brought their kids to the school or the soccer fields (along with fees for filing and huge fines* for late filing), I guarantee there would be a GINORMOUS outcry of rights being trampled on and marches in the streets against such an outlandish idea. This is how the majority of livestock owners feel but the mainstream media, most elected offal and certainly the USDA are NOT listening!!!!!!!!!!!

    *in Texas, the fines for late filing of movement reports is $1000/day. NAIS has been put on hold, though, thanks to those who went to Austin to angrily protest NAIS! And I would be a criminal for not registering or filing reports!

  • stephen

    Funny, NAIS makes all of us who own even one livestock animals “partners” as stated in the NAIS document. Yet they fuss when one of those “partners” comments on the problems in the plan. Are we, who were made partners without our consent supposed to be silent when our livelihoods and joy of animal onership are threatened?