Consumers have become more discerning in their food consumption choices. Food safety and food quality issues have moved to the forefront of consumer concerns, industry strategies, and in some cases, government policy. A variety of private sector and public policy traceability initiatives have emerged, partly with the objective of reducing consumer information asymmetry with respect to food safety and food quality attributes. This paper examines the role of traceability systems in the food industry and distinguishes between ex-post traceback systems and ex-ante quality verification systems. Examples of voluntary private sector livestock traceability systems and public sector traceability programs are discussed, including the trade implications of mandatory traceability and labeling. The paper presents preliminary results from experimental auctions measuring consumer willingness-to-pay for traceability, food safety and on-farm production assurances.
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