Traceability of hides through the supply chain

Hides are one of the most important rest raw materials or plus-products produced by the meat industry as they are further processed and used in leather production.

The hide supply chain consists of a producer (farm), slaughterhouse, hide processor and a tannery. A lot of data is generated in this supply chain but there is an information gap due to lack of full traceability system between the tanner who can evaluate the quality of hides, and the farmer who is in the best position to influence the quality.

Traceability systems can help bridge this gap and result in a better product itself as well as a more environmentally sound process. Benefits of this level of traceability can also help in monitoring of animal health and growth.

Norwegian hide production

Norwegian farmers use a great deal of time to make sure that their animals are doing well. Farms are small, and farmers have a lot of knowledge about animal husbandry, with a focus on animal health. Norwegian cattle hides are world-class and are used in the luxury market for the production of handbags, belts, shoes, and upholstery. Hide production in Norway was about 2.1 thousand tonnes in 2015, declining by an average annual rate of 15.3 % from 2008. In 2017 a total of 293 371 cattle hides were produced in Norway. Norwegian hides are known for their high quality and farmers earn up to 30 euros per animal when sold to international tanners. This hide is turned into luxury handbags each costing up to 470 dollars by big brands.

Traceability

Many international as well as Norwegian brands, like Gucci, Bolia and Dressmann are concerned about the impact of leather production and ethical sourcing and are demand higher levels of traceability. Leather supply-chains are multi-step and globalized, making it challenging to define criteria for sustainable leather and study the whole supply chain. Traceability can be used as a tool to drive leather sustainability. Traceability methods and systems for animal hides is an emerging field driven by a customer demand for sustainable and ethically sourced leather.

The hide supply chain was mapped using the process mapping methodology and a traceability system is proposed to track the hides from the farm to the tannery. Data capture points were identified, and various tagging methods like RFID, dot peening and laser tagging were evaluated.

Suitable technologies

On their way from the farm to the tannery, the hides travel through many harsh environments, and it proved tricky to find a suitable technology to use for the tracking. Many of the tags were lost during the process or were unreadable after the tanning process. Tracking of hides using RFID technology showed the best results, and could be used for thracking of hides until the tannning step. The only technology that survived the tanning process was laser markings. Marking the hides with laser gave readable results also after the tanning process.

Tracking of hides is useful in authenticating the hides by linking them to a specific farm. The data generated through the supply chain from the quality inspections can also be used as a feedback to the producer and used to improve the handling practices on the farm as well as during the transport and slaughter of the animals.

Example of a typical supply chain of cattle hides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Maitri Thakur