Livestock Farmers Turn to the Blockchain to Trace Meat Production


A group of livestock farmers in Arkansas are turning to the blockchain technology to let customers know where their meat is coming from.

Supported by Heifer USA, the suppliers from the Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperation are the first to employ the distributed ledger to verify and trace their products from farm to fork. It is hoped this will give consumers confidence in the quality of food they are buying.

The use of the blockchain is already being employed in many use cases. First utilised within the financial world, the technology can now be seen within the energy, clothing, education and healthcare sectors.

Now, with the help from the blockchain consumers can verify the information within the food chain. With the use of QR codes customers can scan Grass Roots products to find out where the meat came from and how the animals were raised.

With more people concerned about where the meat they are eating originates, this digital history will give all the detail they need. There will also be stories from the farmers and butchers who helped to craft the product.

According to Cody Hopkins, Grass Roots general manager and founding member, Americas have an increasing interest in what they are eating. So much so, that a 2016 Label Insight Study found that 83 percent of consumers wanted more information on what’s in their food.

He said:

“When I learned about this technology, I thought ‘this is the solution.’ It’s the perfect way for Grass Roots to offer folks total transparency. [UK-based technology company] Provenance has developed a platform that levels the playing field for small-scale farmers and puts information directly in consumers’ hands.”

Grass Roots is a small-batch meat company that is working at restoring consumer confidence in the food that they eat. By embracing the blockchain they are ensuring that consumers can see what they are eating and how it has been raised.

Pierre Ferrari, Heifer USA’s Advisory Board Chair, said that the farmers are an innovative bunch who are always seeking ways to introduce the latest technology that will provide real value to the consumer.

He said:

“Partnering with Provenance and the Golden Gate Meat Company is another example of how proactive they are in wanting their customers to know where their food originates. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes ‘best practice’ throughout the industry.”

Low Level of Trust

A 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer study has found that society is in the midst of a ‘profound crisis of trust.’ The study states that of the 28 countries surveyed two-thirds are considered ‘distrusters.’

According to Richard Edelman, president and CEO:

“Under 50 percent trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOs to do what is right.”

He claims this level of distrust stems from the Great Recession of 2008.

“The aftershocks from the stunning meltdown of the global economy are still being felt today, with consequences yet unknown.”

It’s natural then for that feeling of distrust to flow over into the food industry. So much so, that the Label Insight study added that 75 percent of people polled don’t trust the accuracy of food labels.

You only have to think back to the 2013 Horse Meat Scandal in Europe – when food advertised as containing beef was found to contain horse meat – to see why many consumers may have misgivings about the food they are eating.

China Uses the Blockchain to Verify Food

China, too, has been employing the distributed ledger to track and trace its food supply chain.

More specifically, its chickens and pigs.

As reported, China is working on improving its food safety with Chinese web insurer ZhongAn Technology revealing that it has developed a blockchain-based platform designed to track the entire process of chicken farming.

China is a country that has had a few food safety issues in the past. In 2008, a toxic mixture of milk and infant formula mixed with melamine, killed six children, put thousands of others in hospital, and had sickened many more.

Unsurprisingly, a 2015 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that 71 percent of Chinese people thought food safety was a big issue in the country.

Therefore, as chickens are a staple part of the Chinese diet, with China’s poultry consumption predicted at 12.8 million tons, it makes sense to track and trace where the chickens are coming from.

Chickens, though, are not the only animal that is being traced by the blockchain. So are pigs.

In 2016, Walmart announced that it had teamed up with multinational technology company IBM to put Chinese pork on the blockchain. Teaming up with Tsinghua University in Beijing, it’s hoped that this partnership will prevent food disasters in the future.

By doing so, they can provide a transparent record for consumers so they know exactly where their food is coming from, regardless of the country in question.

According to Frank Yiannes, vice president of food safety at Walmart, tracking food can help stop food disasters.

He said:

“If you could track and pinpoint where that came from faster, you could alleviate all that and ensure consumer confidence continues.”

Since teaming up to put Chinese pork on the blockchain, Walmart revealed that the results so far have been ‘very encouraging.’

Nowadays, with the advancements in technology, it no longer has to be difficult to see exactly where a food is sourced from. The food industry is quickly beginning to see the merits behind the distributed ledger and the positive impact it can play in consumer confidence and food consumption.

With a global population at 7.5 billion there are a lot of mouths to feed. For many, knowing exactly what they are eating or where it comes from may not be a top concern. However, for those that do, the blockchain can now provide that peace of mind to ensuring that the animals were treated well through their life.

What may now be considered as something new, will eventually be taken for granted: the scanning of foods to see where a product has been sourced and not simply reading a label to say where it has come from.

Featured image from Shutterstock.