The National Animal Identification System, otherwise known as NAIS, is a government-run program in the United States intended to permit improved animal health surveillance by identifying and tracking specific animals. [1] The NAIS is the result of extensive lobbying from large factory farms "agribusiness" to protect themselves against possible liability when an epidemic occurs.Template:Fact Administered at the federal level by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, NAIS will also be overseen by state animal health boards. While the federal program is voluntary, money received by some states,[2] tribes, and non-profit entities [3] from the USDA through cooperative agreements has been used to make parts or all of the program mandatory. [4] [5] [6]


The National Animal Identification System covers most livestock species, including cattle, bison, deer, elk, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys, mules, goats, sheep, swine, all poultry species, and even some fish species, under the heading of aquaculture.

Locations, or premises, where these animals are housed or otherwise handled will thus need to be identified, as this is the first component of NAIS. Afterward, the animals themselves will be identified, and, finally, they are to be tracked in their movements between the various premises. [7]

Once these three parts of NAIS are fully implemented, the ultimate goal of the program, traceback within 48 hours of a diseased animal's movements, will be possible. This traceback would enable animal health officials to identify all the animals and locations that have had direct contact with the animal and take appropriate measures to prevent the further spread of disease. [8]

Premises identification numberEdit

Premises identification, the first part of NAIS, allows certain information about each premise be entered into a national database, along with a unique, 7-character premise identification number. Information will include: the assigned premise identification number; the name of the premise; its owner or another appropriate contact person; its location, including the street address, city, state, and zip code; a contact phone number; the type of operation, such as a slaughterhouse or horse boarding stable; the date the premise ID number was activated; and the date that the premise ID number was deactivated, along with the reason.

Animal identificationEdit

The next step is animal identification. Each individual animal, whether horse, cow, sheep, chicken, pigeon, etc., is given a unique, 15-character animal identification number, or, in the case of animals that remain together in groups, a unique, 13-character group identification number.

The technology to be used for identification has not yet been finally chosen, although some recommendations have been made by the different species working groups, which represent animal producers. Radio frequency identification, such as that found in microchips, retinal scanning, and DNA samples are among the possibilities.

Animal trackingEdit

The final component of NAIS is animal tracking. This will allow a report to be filed each time one of a set of events occurs, such as a change of an animal's ownership or movement to a new premise. A report would include the animal's or group's identification number, the premise identification number where the event took place, the date of the event, and the type of event, as slaughter or a sighting of the animal.

On December 19, 2007, the FDA announced plans to create a database to track cloned animals through the food system and enable an effective labeling process [9]. This system will be part of the National Animal Identification System, which will track all livestock in the United States from farm to fork [10].


For very large processors NAIS may provide an export marketing advantage and may enable them to deflect legal liability (and thus financial liability). It has already been shown that there will be no improvement in disease management over what is already available through other less-invasive programs and experience shows that the claimed benefit of 48-hour traceback is unlikely to materialize.


Some of the concerns with NAIS include financial, civil rights, and religious aspects of the program.

Financially, a system as vast as NAIS will undoubtedly be extremely costly,[11] Additionally, there is concern that the costs of complying with the program will drive small farmers out of business due to the cost of having each animal registered. [12] Small farmers and families will have to register and pay a registration fee for every head of livestock or poultry, while corporate farms with large herds or flocks of more than 30,000 chickens will only have to pay the fee equivalent of owning one animal. In this scenario most of the costs of this expensive tracking system will fall on small farms and families allowing corporate farms increased profits and lower costs. This will further tip the scales in favor of corporate farms and give them greater ability to out-compete smaller farms, hastening the demise of the small family farm. Template:Fact

There are also civil rights concerns, because NAIS establishes extensive government control over livestock, which are considered to be private property. There are also concerns that the big agribusiness companies will use this system to blame their mistakes in processing which introduces contamination to the food supply on small farmers putting them out of business. [13]

In Wisconsin, the first state to make NAIS mandatory by allowing Premises ID to become law in January 2006, there is the ability to allow for exemptions of small farms. This has been denied by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) in their rule making. Wisconsin State Statute 95.51 (3m)states that the department may promulgate exemptions based on size and type of farm, ATCP rule #17 makes Premises ID completely mandatory and offers no exemptions. Although DATCP Secretary Rod Nilsestuen says in a May 1, 2007 press release that Premises ID is not Animal ID, he does not deny that in September 2005 he wrote to the US House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture (serial number 109-16) that he and DATCP "support the use of RFID technology in all livestock species as deemed effective and appropriate by the NAIS Species Working Groups."

Other concerns in Wisconsin and other states (who contract with WLIC) is that the system is not maintained by state government, but instead relies upon the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) to maintain the database of Premises ID registrants. This is currently continuing with the RFID tagging database as well The WLIC is a private interest group made up of Big Agribusiness, including Cargill, Genetics/Biotech Corporations, like ABS Global, and RFID tagging companies such as Digital Angel, and many of these members parallel NIAA membership There are also in fact only 6 RFID tags that are approved by WLIC/NAIS at this time: 2 manufactured by Allflex, 2 by Digital Angel, one by Y-Tex and 1 by Global Animal Management. All four are WLIC members.

Finally, fears persist about plans to make NAIS mandatory on the federal level, which would threaten the religious freedom of those who believe that making a “mark” is sinful, such as the Amish. The Amish also object to the use of electronic devices such as microchips. [14] If microchip implants were required, as has been proposed in a 2004 report by the United States Animal Health Association’s Committee on Livestock Identification, it would also violate the rights of those who believe that this practice is morally wrong.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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Organizations supporting NAISEdit

Organizations, businesses, and publications opposing NAISEdit