One of the latest trends in the market for food products is the desire amongst consumers to know the origin of the products they purchase and to feel physically or emotionally connected to the farm and the producer. However, given the many efforts by producers and retailers to mislead consumers about the origin of products, for consumers to have faith in the origin of food products, they need to have some guarantee about the true origin of products. Thus, to be able to successfully guarantee the origin of food products, traceability systems need to be in place and they need to comply with the necessary legislation. This consumer need for origin-based food is now playing out in a variety of ways as food processors and retailers are labelling their products according to the origin of the product. Quite often, regional names are used for that identification. One iconic South African example of a product with regional identity is Karoo Lamb. In July this year producers from the Karoo region launched Karoo Lamb, a certification scheme, with a chain-wide traceability system in place to guarantee the Karoo origin of sheep meat in South African retail stores. The question, though, is whether all abattoirs and meat processors in South Africa are able to deliver origin-guaranteed products. The key factor here is the traceability system they have in place. The general objective of this study is therefore to assess current traceability systems in the sheep meat industry and to establish their ability to guarantee the origin of a carcass. This traceability system should be able to protect, manage and govern the food of origin attributes of a product in the sheep meat industry. The specific objectives of the study are: i) to create a high level process map to indicate the flow of Karoo Lamb products; ii) to share information by developing a detailed description of current and potential traceability systems in the Karoo Lamb supply chain; iii) to identify critical control points for maintaining product information and to test if these systems are in line with best practices; iv) to investigate the decision-making factors impacting on the implementation of a traceability system; and v) to develop recommendations for effectively implementing a traceability system that protects, manages and governs food of origin attributes. In response to these objectives, five hypotheses were developed and tested. The five hypotheses basically aimed to identify the tipping factor in the traceability implementation decision-making process. The population of South African sheep slaughtering abattoirs was used to draw a random sample of 55 abattoirs selected to participate in the research survey by means of interview administrated, structured questionnaires. The data was then processed and analysed to include a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis. The results obtained by the research indicate that 92 % of the abattoirs in South Africa have proper traceability systems in place that enable them to market and deliver origin-guaranteed products. The 3 (8 %) abattoirs that do not have traceability systems are in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. This might become problematic, since sheep from these regions are often marketed as Karoo lamb. Without proper traceability systems, this credence attribute cannot be guaranteed. According to the hypothesis test, the fact that an abattoir delivers to a retailer is the single most significant factor, compared to the other factors tested, for abattoirs to implement a traceability system. Research showed that 95 % of retail delivering abattoirs have traceability systems in place, and the other 5 % of abattoirs are those situated in remote rural areas and their retail customers have little other choice than to buy from these abattoirs. However, the study identified poor knowledge on the costs and benefits of a traceability system as a potential drawback in doing a proper cost benefit analysis and therefore proper research on the economics of traceability systems was almost impossible. At the abattoir level, traceability systems are quite easily implemented because it is much easier to trace a single carcass in an abattoir than to trace different pieces of one carcass in the processing plant. Since this study did not include detail pertaining to the downstream tiers; meat processors, packers, wholesalers and retailers, it is not possible to conclude that the entire sheep supply chain can guarantee a product’s origin in the case of Karoo Lamb. The integrity of these role players will play a vital role in their ability to guarantee the origin of a sheep meat product especially when sheep carcasses are moved outside the Karoo boundaries for processing and packaging. It is therefore clear that the downstream tiers play a vital part in the South African sheep meat industry in terms of chain-wide traceability and transparency in order to guarantee the origin of a sheep meat product such as Karoo Lamb. Further research is therefore required to evaluate the other role players in the sheep meat industry for chain-wide traceabiltiy systems, in order to test the readiness of this chain and industry to guarantee the origin of a product like Karoo Lamb.
Dissertation (MSc(Agric))--University of Pretoria, 2013.