Alberta hogs will be tracked from the farm to the packing plant under a new swine regulation to help quickly identify and track disease outbreaks, according to a report in the Calgary Herald.

Alberta becomes the first province in Canada to mandate a traceability system, according to Alberta Pork, the association that represents the province’s 375 pork producers who market 2.5 million pigs annually.

“If there is an issue of disease or food safety issues, we have instant information about where the animals were transported,” explains Darcy Fitzgerald, executive director of Alberta Pork. “They don’t always come from a single location.”

The move to a traceability system is meant to bolster the credibility of the Canadian pork industry, which has been buffeted in recent years by a stronger Canadian dollar and trade restrictions linked to the H1N1 flu outbreak. Alberta reported the first case of the H1N1 flu in 2009, Fitzgerald says, but the trade ban has now been lifted.

Foot-and-mouth disease is another concern facing the Canadian livestock industry, he adds.

Regulation of transport will provide comfort to international customers, says Rich Frederickson, senior manager of traceability initiatives with Alberta Agriculture.

Already in place is a system whereby each hog has a unique identifier tattoo linking it to the farm of origin, and a voluntary hog tracing system has been in place for a year.

The responsibility for the tracing documents will now fall on the shipper, the transporter and whoever receives the hogs.

“This enables us to track the movements of the animal so that we can more effectively prevent, prepare and respond to an animal health or an animal disaster,” he says.

“The faster that you can deal with that, the sooner you get back into a market that shuts you out,” Frederickson says.