Albert Heijn introduces DNA traceability system for branded pork

By Aidan Fortune contact

- Last updated on GMT

Albert Heijn introduces DNA traceability system for branded pork

Related tags: Pork, Albert heijn, Vion, Traceability, Netherlands, Technology, Livestock, Processing and packaging Innovation, Processing equipment & plant design

Dutch retailer Albert Heijn has implemented the Beter Leven system for its branded pork products in response to growing consumer demand for greater transparency in the food chain.

Working with its supplier Vion Food Group, the retailer has appointed global traceability experts IdentiGEN to provide a DNA-based traceability solution for its Beter Leven one-star pork products.

First introduced in 2007 for the poultry sector, the Beter Leven label highlights animal-friendly meat products.

The DNA TraceBack fork-to-farm technology from IdentiGEN aims to cut through the complexity of the protein supply chain to accurately trace a product back to the farm. Since DNA forms the building block for every individual animal and is unique as a natural barcode, IdentiGEN utilises the fact that DNA is immutable and, combined with data analytics, can verify the paperwork and provide accurate data to a more precise source. Albert Heijn had already been working with IdentiGEN‘s DNA traceability program on its beef and chicken ranges.

Speaking to GlobalMeatNews Albert Heijn quality manager food Emiel Beekwilder outlined why the retailer has implemented this scheme for pork by using the DNA TraceBack system.

“Albert Heijn is always looking at best technology available to support the business. For various reasons a fully controlled, transparent supply chain is desired, especially in meat products. Therefore we choose to work with IdentiGEN. Together with IdentiGEN and Vion we have organized state of the art supply chain control and transparency.

About 18,000 pigs per week are processed to fulfil the demand of Albert Heijn pork meat, all running through the DNA TraceBack system, although no change in production time or retail price is expected.

Anton Hofland of IdentiGEN Benelux, explained IdentiGEN’s role in the partnership to GlobalMeatNews.

“Following successful implementation of DNA-based traceability programmes on Greenfields Beef and Albert Heijn Brand (De AH Kip / The AH Chicken) products, Albert Heijn appointed IdentiGEN to work with their suppliers to provide a DNA-based traceability solution for the Beter Leven 1-star pork products. The brief was to provide a robust solution which would scientifically verify traceability and associated quality, sustainability, and welfare commitments.”

Hofland said that “consumers today want to experience the truth behind their food choices”.

“According to the 2020 Power of Meat study, building trust in and understanding of claims is key to continued growth — particularly given the importance of production claims to those looking to reduce their meat/poultry intake due to animal welfare, environmental or health concerns. 

“Today’s savvy consumers are demanding ever-greater levels of information to definitively identify where their food comes from and how it is produced.  Health and well-being concerns for animal welfare, ethical practices and the environment are all in the spotlight. Consumers are seeking solid assurance on what lies behind their purchase.”

He added that it was vital for traceability to begin on the farm. “It is virtually impossible for standard traceability solutions to trace proteins back to the source farm after they are disassembled, co-mingled and transformed at the scale required by industry.  Batch movement and scale present other challenges in achieving accurate and precise traceability back to the farm of origin.

“With DNA TraceBack, retailers can scientifically verify marketing messages and product claims to help tell stories with confidence, building loyalty, differentiation, and trust in a highly competitive and increasingly complex marketplace.

“The application of DNA TraceBack brings a further degree of accountability to production practices, which are increasingly being demanded by both retailers and the consumer,“ ​said Hofland.

Vion’s director of quality assurance and public affairs Bert Urlings said that this transparency is only going to become more popular with shoppers.

“The signals from the market and independent studies are that transparency and product integrity is becoming even more important for the consumer. The consumer wants to make informed choices - this DNA monitoring program further underpins our commitment to transparency and product integrity and delivers against expectations of our customer, Albert Heijn and their consumers.”

Urlings explained that it wasn’t a difficult system to implement in its existing supply chain and that there was room to expand it. “It does not affect our processing operation as such. We have well established operating procedures to ensure product segregation from other supply chains in place.

“The application of DNA traceability is relatively new in the Netherlands. Building on this program with Albert Heijn, we have now decided to also start the implementation of a similar DNA monitoring program with IdentiGEN for our organic pork range ‘De Groene Weg’.”

Related topics: Meat

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