Industrial Wireless

RFID system tracks meat production in Chinese slaughterhouse

February 2021 Industrial Wireless

Since meat products have become a standard in the daily diet of Chinese consumers, the quality assurance of meat production has become a key topic of discussion in the Peoples’ Republic. The Chinese administration therefore decided to establish the supervision and tracking of meat production in China. It supervises the whole process from breeding, slaughtering, processing, distribution to shops, and enables the origin of the meat product to be traced so as to establish a food safety pre-alarm mechanism.

The information is reported at municipal level so as to enable the supervising authorities and the public to track the whole process on this platform. This particularly applies to the slaughterhouse, the central hub of many processes which are difficult to monitor. Due to the higher standards of hygiene here compared to when the animals are reared or when they are later packaged after slaughter, the requirements involved are tougher. The slaughterhouse determines the reliability of traceable meat production, and is always the weakest segment in the entire tracking management chain.

Customer requirements

To implement the tracking of the pork across all process levels, every pig is provided with an electronic earring containing the relevant data. However, the location of the electronic earring on the pig’s ear is not suitable for collecting data during operation. This data is transferred to the database of the slaughterhouse when the pig arrives. As every piece of pork is hung on the same hook during the entire process, it made sense to fit an RFID tag on the hook.

Several read/write heads are installed beside the production line, which can acquire the information of every piece of pork along it. The continuous correct identification of the pork depends on the correct allocation of the data on the earring to the corresponding tags on the hook. If quality issues are found already at the initial examination in the slaughterhouse, the relevant information is recorded in the RFID tag attached to the hook, and that piece of pork will also be diverted to a special storage zone to prevent any further processing.

Large ranges and high speeds

The key requirement when selecting the BL ident RFID system from Turck Banner was its ability to read and write 8 Bytes of data on the fly, i.e., within the usual conveying speed. The project manager of integrator Beijing Zhihengda Sci & Tech was also impressed by the simplicity and flexibility of the system, which can be parameterised easily without the use of any function blocks. Besides the 8 connected read/write heads, other analog or digital signals can be connected to each BL67 gateway, acting as an RFID interface. If additional control points are required, both RFID modules as well as standard I/O modules can be added. This considerably keeps the costs per node to a minimum. The large range of the Turck Banner read/write heads protects tags and read/write heads from mechanical damage.

LF and UHF solutions unsuitable

Alternative frequency bands such as LF and UHF RFID solutions were not suitable for the application. The frequency of the LF RFID was very similar to that of the motors on site so that reliable RFID operation was subject to considerable interference. Moreover, the read/write distance of LF RFID was not enough. The distance between RFID read/write head and tag is only approximately 30 mm, which could not fulfil the requirement at every station. The customer therefore required a larger read/write range to prevent damage to the tag or read/write head.

Turck Banner tags can store 146 Bytes. Thus all the necessary information can be saved on the tag, which increases safety in the event of a database error. Turck Banner’s HF system can detect the tags completely so that production is not slowed down through the use of RFID. Turck Banner also developed the TW-R10 tag which can be embedded in the metal of the meat hook and thus be provided with reliable protection from damage. The increased read/write range also enables the RFID readers to be fitted next to the conveyor belt where they are mechanically protected. The read/write heads are protected to IP69K and the tags to IP68. They are thus resistant to moisture and water and are also suitable for high-pressure cleaning.


The adoption of the Turck Banner HF RFID solution can not only solve all the existing problems, but also enhance the reliability and accuracy of the data acquired, so as to connect the entire tracking chain, raise production efficiency greatly and guarantee meat product safety.


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