I’ve been meaning to write about NAIS, the National Animal Identification System, for a while now. The program tracks farm animals from birth to death, supposedly making it easier to identify the origin of disease outbreaks. It sounds like a good idea (and for large farms it probably is), but it has its problems. The first is that it doesn’t necessarily do much for stopping contamination that happens in a slaughterhouse. The larger concern, though, is its impact on small farmers. NAIS requires the registration and tracking of individual animals, but it makes an exception for groups of animals that spend their entire lives together and are kept isolated from other animals. Thus a factory farm could use just one registration and apply it to a massive group of cooped up chickens. A smaller farm that lets its livestock intermingle would have to register each animal individually (not to mention the practical difficulties of getting a tag on a chicken).
Participation in NAIS is generally voluntary, but smaller farmers are understandably worried about the compliance costs that could be forced on them if new food safety regulations are passed. A coalition of groups expressed their concerns to relevant congressional committees yesterday. That letter is available here.