Today now more than ever customers and consumers are looking to find out WHERE their food comes from. But not just in a general sense, they want to know details. Locations, companies, who is handling their food and what they are doing. With a push towards more and more labeling of origin, I wonder how many people know there is already a system in place that allows you to find the origins of your federally inspected meat…?
It’s called an establishment number and any meat under federal inspection that is labeled for resale will bear this seal. Meat, Poultry, and Eggs are required by law to contain this seal. This system has it’s origins in the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906. What this system allows is not only for customers and consumers to look up who is producing their food, but also allows USDA to track back the source of a particular item in the event of a recall. By knowing this establishment number, they can pin point where a product came from and if possible what other products may need to be recalled. But this system is not just for finished products, carcasses are also stamped with establishment numbers. So when we order in carcass animals to either cut up or receive animals that have been slaughtered under federal inspection by another business, all of the carcasses have been stamped with this seal as well. It looks something like the image to the left.
Even our products that we have made on the premises, such as smoked sausages, jerky, tri-tips, etc. are required to contain a seal with our establishment number on the package. Instead of saying U.S. Inspected and Passed by the Dept. of Ag, our seal says California Inspected and Passed by the Department of Agriculture because we are under state inspection, not federal inspection. If you are curious about the difference between the two, you can find out more in this post talking about local meat.
So how do you find these establishment numbers and information…? Well you take a visit to the USDA website. Here they have a database of establishment numbers by either numeral order or alphabetically by establishment name. For example, let’s say we want to find out where one of the products featured above comes from. All we have to do is look them up in the database. The beef shown on the left came from establishment 245L which the database tells us is Tyson Fresh Meats out of Lexington, NE.
But this system really isn’t feasible while you are standing in the grocery store aisle trying to make decisions on what to buy. But thanks to a student at Chicago’s DePaul University, he has allowed this information to go mobile. He has designed a mobile app for the iphone which allows anyone to ” to search the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) product establishment number. The new app offers instant access to a product’s manufacturer and provides further information about that company. In addition to identifying the company, the app offers its address, telephone number and web address.”
“The app was designed to be customized for every individual. The Establishment Number Finder App allows users to save any establishment number previously searched, as well as an option to quickly note information regarding the product. Users may also take of picture of the product which will automatically appear along with any additional company information that can be easily saved and stored.” The App can be found in the AppStore by searching for Est. Finder App.
We are excited to see if this app takes off and gains popularity amongst customers and consumers and what they have to say about knowing exactly where their food comes from! How many of you knew how/where establishment numbers? It goes to show you that just because it’s on a label, it doesn’t necessarily mean the public will know what it means or how to utilize the information. Will you be downloading and trying out this app?