Open production, Japanese style
Visiting a 1300-sow complex in Japan that has become one of the first in the country to win standards certification for product traceability
As from March 2006, Japan has been addressing public concerns about food safety by operating an official system to offer transparency and traceability in the complete chain of producing and distributing pork, beef and other agricultural products from farm to consumer. One of the first pigmeat producers to participate in the programme during its introductory phase has been visited by Japanese magazine Youton Joho, from which the following report and photos have been obtained with the magazine's permission and assistance.
The OK Ranch business pictured produces about 30 000 finishing pigs per year and sells the pork through its own farm shop as well as to processors and retailers. It qualified quickly for the specific pork standard JAS because of its direct-sale activities and by opening up its production process to public view through a website operated by a meat company's health service. In fact, it made more detailed information available about feeds, medicines and veterinary treatments than is demanded by the standard's rules.
Initially, the enterprise had used management software known as MNFIS developed by feed supplier Marubeni. It was therefore able to transfer easily to an extended version of the same programme, called Tonreki, that Marubeni has since produced to satisfy the extra requirements associated with the pork-specific JAS. One of the new software's extras is that it also ensures traceability. Today the OK Ranch uses Tonreki through the internet to obtain a complete overview of management and inputs. A future possibility under close discussion is that pork packages in stores will be numbered and consumers are offered to access information about the production behind their purchase by entering the number on a computer.