New Cattle I.D. System - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New Cattle I.D. System

MESA, Wash. - American beef will soon again be "what's for dinner" in Japan. But to ensure the beef industry stays ahead of any future mad cow scares, the State of Washington is looking to implement a new cattle identification system.

You might not think buying beef at the grocery store and shopping for a used car have much in common, but you wouldn't buy a used car without checking the vin number to know where its been and soon other countries that buy American beef may be able to do the same thing, with a standard cattle identification system.

The idea of tagging a cow's ear to identify it isn't new, but some cattle ranchers have started using tags with bar codes to essentially give each cow its own social security number.

As cattle move from the ranch to the slaughter house, you could check where each individual cow came from, how old it is, and where it was if mad cow disease broke out again.

"Which calf belongs to which cow is probably worth $200 per animal to me," said Cattle Rancher Steve Hailey.  

But not every rancher or feeder agrees with the system.

"Livestock I.D. Is probably the most divisive issue that's faced the cattle industry in the last 100 or 150 years," said Jack Field, Washington Cattlemen's Association.    

So the state employed Field and other cattle experts to examine the industry and make their recommendations for one system everyone can follow.

"We can't individually identify an animal because it comes under a brand and that same brand might be on hundreds or thousands of other cattle in the State of Washington," said Ed Field, Washington Cattle Feeders Association. 

As of now bar code tags complete with radio frequency identification are the international standard and countries like Australia would like nothing better than to have the American beef industry take its time.

"The longer we drag our feet the more time they have to establish and take advantage of export markets we're not in," said Jack Field.