The Threat of Forced Electronic Animal ID

Pete Kennedy, Esq.
July 6, 2024

On May 9, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final rule mandating the use of electronic ID (EID) for cattle and bison in interstate commerce; the rule is scheduled to go into effect November 5, 2024. The importance of stopping implementation of the rule can’t be overstated. The viability of independent farmers and ranchers as well as a reliable supply of quality beef is under threat.

Under the current animal disease traceability framework—which has been in place since 2013—tags, brands, tattoos, breed registry certificates, and electronic ID are all recognized as official ID. The low-tech ID has worked well; there is no scientific basis for mandating electronic ID.  The new rule does nothing to improve traceability and doesn’t improve food safety either; most foodborne illnesses are caused by unsanitary conditions in slaughterhouses and processing plants—animal traceability ends at the slaughterhouse door.

In the short-term, the rule will improve the export market for the meatpackers and benefit the technology companies who stand to make millions supplying the electronic tags, readers and software. This comes at the expense of small farmers and ranchers—the ones who have to pay many times more for the electronic ID ear tags than they would for the metal tags; by contrast, the rule provides a loophole that allows big corporate-owned herds to be grouped and tagged as one group, generating substantial savings for the large corporations. The other short-term effect for the independent farmers and ranchers is a loss of privacy; the mandatory EID requirement creates a central registry detailing what the cattle farmer owns.

The longer-term ramifications of the rule are more ominous. The meatpackers will be in a better position to vertically integrate the beef industry—a development that occurred long ago within the poultry and pork industries. Four meatpackers already control 80-85% of the beef market; mandatory EID can enable them to corner of the market completely. They would be able to do this through USDA using the new requirement to regulate independent farmers and ranchers into the ground. Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) explains how this would work:

    “They [USDA] can have 83 requirements that you need to be in compliance with in order to have cattle on your farm. Your fences have to be so high off the ground to allow the wildlife to pass through, all these constraints, and all these crazy things where your animals must have this whole schedule of vaccines. They’ll make the childhood vaccines schedule look benign.

     If you don’t comply with all these things, they’re going to stop you from selling your cattle at the point of sale. They’re going to run a wand over your animal. If the serial number doesn’t match up with a farm that’s compliant, no sale, and destroy the animal. What will happen is nobody that doesn’t have a whole team of lawyers and veterinarians and ecologists and environmentalists working on their farm will be able to be in compliance with all of these rules. The big companies, the 'big industrial meat complex' I call it, will come along and say, ‘Listen, just be a franchise of us. We’ll either sell you the cattle or the embryos or whatever, and you raise them on your farm without tags and we'll predetermine the price.’

    It’s like it is with poultry. You basically will be the sucker holding the bank loan. The American cattlemen ranchers will go away, and you’ll be a wholly owned subsidiary of JBS if they get this through, which they have.”[1]

Another result of a mandatory EID regulation is that supporters of the ‘sustainable development’ and ‘climate change’ movements will have a better chance to carry out their agendas, one of which is the elimination, or substantial reduction, of the meat supply. As rancher Shad Sullivan says, “It is a private property rights issue. When we start talking about RFID, EID, and data monitoring of farmers and ranchers and their cattle herd size, we open up the door to what is going on in the European Union. Under the rules of sustainable development, we know that the RFID has led to land seizure in the name of climate change. Once we open that door, there is no going back; they can come, and they can monitor, measure, report, and verify everything that is going on on your farm or ranch. Then ‘maybe down the road’, in the name of 'climate change', they can come and dictate to you the rules of their production, which is subjective from a third-party verification. It is extremely dangerous to private property rights; this is a liberty taker, not a liberty maker.”[2]

U.S. Representative Harriet Hageman (R-WY) points out, “We need to look no further than what happened in Ireland to recognize the threat of a USDA-driven EID mandate.” Hageman continued, “In early 2022 Ireland adopted an EID mandate, and by August 2023, its government was reporting that they needed to slaughter as many as 41,000 head of livestock—not because of a disease outbreak, but because of so-called ‘climate change’. A mandatory EID simply gives the federal government too much power.”[3]

The ruling establishment has invested billions in lab-grown meat startups even though there is no demand for the product. The only way consumers will purchase lab-grown meat is if there is a captive market; the mandatory EID rule, combined with an all-digital currency (another goal of the establishment) would provide an opportunity for that to happen. Two meatpackers, Tyson and Cargill, both invested money in the lab meat startup Memphis Meats (since renamed Upside Foods).

The rule on mandatory EID for cattle and bison would not be the final step for USDA in regulating animal traceability but only the beginning; in its press release on the final rule, USDA stated it is “committed to implementing a modern animal disease traceability system that tracks [all] animals from birth to slaughter….”[4] Efforts are ongoing to make sure this massive surveillance and control system never gets underway.

Rep. Hageman has introduced House Joint Resolution 167 (HJR 167), a resolution of disapproval which states: “That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Department of Agriculture relating to ‘Use of Electronic Identification Eartags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison’ published in the Federal Register on May 9, 2024 (89 Fed. Reg. 39540 et seq.), and such rule shall have no force and effect.”[5]

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) has introduced a companion measure, Senate Joint Resolution 98 (SJR 98).

It’s critical that people call their U.S. Representatives and Senators asking that they cosponsor the resolution of disapproval. If the resolution doesn’t succeed, there is still an opportunity for Congress to expressly prohibit funding for the mandatory EID requirement when it passes the new funding bill that comes up September 30. If that doesn’t happen then the recent Supreme Court decision overturning chevron deference increases the chances that a court challenge to the rule will be successful once USDA starts enforcing the mandatory EID requirement in November. Until the rule is stopped, that requirement remains a huge threat to small farm viability and food freedom of choice.


[1] Massie, Thomas. (2024, June 18). Food Series: Tales from the Congressional Front with Representative Thomas Massie.  Solari Food Series. (podcast interview).

[2] Sullivan, Shad. (2024, March 21). "Rep. Thomas Massie: “This Is Central Bank Digital Currency for Cattle”. The Bottom Line with Duffy and Dagan. (Twitter video clip). also posted 3/23/24 at

[3] Press Release. (2024, June 13). Hageman Introduces Bill to Block Mandatory EID Ear Tags.

[4] Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). (2024, April 26). APHIS Bolsters Animal Disease Traceability in the United States. (press release).

[5] H.J.Res.167 - 118th Congress (2023-2024): Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Agriculture relating to "Use of Electronic Identification Eartags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison". (bill text). ,

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