A Japanese government ministry is tapping into the blockchain to track the game meat supply, ensuring quality food for public health.
The Japan Gibier Promotion Association, a division of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, will be employing the technology. The aim is to create a safe supply chain where consumers can trace the history of the meat to where it was hunted.
This is in partnership with Tech Bureau, a fintech and cryptocurrency solutions company. The collaboration will see them using a NEM-based blockchain to build and store its transaction records.
This marks the first instance the Japanese government is deploying the Mijin blockchain. From the hunting ground to the restaurant, the agency will record data generated from the meat supply chain.
Reduction in Licensed Hunters
Japan is one country that is struggling with an increase in wild boar and deer numbers. As a result, wild animals are increasingly encroaching into populated areas, damaging agricultural land.
In 1975, the number of licensed Japanese hunters amounted to a high of 518,000. However, since then numbers have greatly diminished. This can be seen by the fact that in 2000, the number had dropped to 210,000 before declining to 198,000 in 2011, according to the Japan Times, citing figures from the Ministry of the Environment.
Additionally, 66 percent, or 131,000, are over 60-years-old.
Yet, as older licensed hunters retire their guns the damage to agricultural land will continue.
It’s hoped, however, that the blockchain can provide the solution to Japan’s meat supply chain.
Takao Asayama, CEO of Tech Bureau, said:
“Some rural communities suffer from wildlife overpopulation, amounting to over 178m USD per year. The power of blockchain technology is that it can transform one of the oldest food supplies into an asset for local communities.”
Through the distributed ledger, Japan Gibier Promotion Association will determine data from the game meat processing factory. It will ensure this by recording on the blockchain in a visible and verifiable way. Furthermore, it will see whether the alert system designed for automatic detection of falsified data is complete.
China Uses the Blockchain to Track its Meat
This might be the first use case within the Japanese government to trace its meat supply, but in China it’s not.
In the Chinese nation food safety is a major concern. This is evident by the fact that in 2008 a toxic mixture of milk and infant formula mixed with melamine, killed six children. Additionally, it put thousands of others in hospital and sickened many more.
Naturally, people in China are more concerned about where their food is coming from. This is clear by the fact that a 2015 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that 71 percent of Chinese people thought food safety was a big issue in the country.
The only way to tackle food concerns was to employ the blockchain.
Tracking Chinese Pork
The first venture into tracking Chinese meat on the distributed ledger was in 2016.
It was revealed that global giant Walmart was teaming up with multinational technology company IBM to put Chinese pork on the blockchain. Collaborating with Tsinghua University in Beijing, it’s hoped it will prevent food disasters in the country.
At the time, Frank Yiannes, vice president of food safety at Walmart, explained:
“If you could track and pinpoint where that [food] came from faster, you could alleviate all that and ensure consumer confidence continues.”
Data since then has proven to show positive results.
Walmart said in a statement:
“This is just the start of our blockchain exploration. We plan to continue to test the technology, by including more data attributes, for example. And we will continue to test how we can use it to improve food traceability and transparency by collaborating with others throughout the supply chain. This means farmers and suppliers and other retailers.”
Following the Chicken Meat Supply
Since the pork collaboration, China has increased its focus on other meat. Now, it’s also tracking its chicken meat supply.
China has a population of 1.388 billion people. Consequently, that means there are a fair few months to feed. Not only that, but according to the Poultry Site, in 2016, China was forecasted to consume 12.8 million tons of poultry. As a result, the importance rests on knowing exactly where that meat is coming from.
Another food scandal that hit China was in 2014. Then, Shanghai Husi Food, a subsidiary of Illinois-based OSI Group, was alleged to have supplied expired chicken to KFC and McDonald’s in China. An investigation found that the company was putting new labels on expired meat before providing them to fast food companies to use.
The blockchain provides a solution to Chinese consumers low confidence in food safety.
Chinese web insurer ZhongAn Technology are attempting to change China’s food safety problems. Through a blockchain-based platform it will track the entire process of chicken farming. This includes where a chicken has been bred, raised, processed and examined.
Largest Food Industry Suppliers Aim to Boost Consumer Food Confidence
Several of the world’s biggest food suppliers are joining forces. Their aim: to provide a blockchain solution to improve confidence in the food industry.
The suppliers include Nestlé, Wal-Mart Stores, Unilever, Dole, Kroger, Golden State Foods, McCormick and Company, Driscoll’s, McLane Company and Tyson Foods.
Following trials that started last year, they are to work with IBM Corporation. They will use a blockchain platform developed in China.
Frank Yiannas, vice-president for food safety at Walmart, said:
“Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system – equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants – that will further promote responsible actions and behaviours.”
“I believe this coalition marks an important milestone in the development of technology to help raise global food safety standards.”
As can be seen several countries and industry players are realising the potential the blockchain has. This is particularly true when it comes to the food sector. By providing a transparent record for consumers to see it verifies where food has come from. This, in turn, will boost food confidence in an industry that has been marred by food scandals.
Featured image from Flickr via Philippe Rouzet.