Ever wondered if those supposedly ‘free range’ chickens were actually roaming free before their date with destiny on your dinner plate?
I’m not saying this isn’t what happens.
It may well be…
But on whose word are you relying?
Consumer rights watchdog Choice suggests it’s all just a bit of a marketing ploy to sell a premium priced product:
‘Consumers will happily pay a premium for free range eggs in the belief that they meet ethical standards. In fact, we’ve found consumers are paying almost twice as much for free range eggs as they would for cage eggs.
‘But there’s no guarantee you’re getting what you pay for. We found around 213 million of the free range eggs on the market are produced in facilities with stocking densities higher than the CSIRO Model Code of Practice.’
The origin and the production process of what we eat is becoming an important consumer consideration.
And if it’s important to the consumer, it should be important to producers.
But there’s that small matter of trust to overcome.
There’s no way for you to know if the claim is genuine.
And if you’re going to pay a premium price to do the decent thing — and hopefully be buying a superior product — you want to know it’s not a load of overpriced bull.
Well guess who’s riding to the rescue?
Free range trust
Blockchain of course.
American agricultural conglomerate Cargill is testing a blockchain platform to track the origin of turkey products.
Farms within Cargill’s network will use a blockchain-based system that lets consumers find out information about the turkeys. It includes photos of them, where they were raised, as well as comments from the farmers themselves.
A neat touch.
Though I wonder what the comments could possibly be? ‘Sam the turkey was partial to a bit of seed around the yard and didn’t mind pecking his neighbours…’
When you purchase a turkey, the label on the packaging will include a code. You can then enter the code on the website to get the lowdown.
Representative Deborah Socha said in a statement:
‘We know consumers are looking beyond farm-to-table marketing promises to better understand where their food comes from and how it is produced.
‘That’s why the Honeysuckle White brand is the first and only major turkey brand to pilot a blockchain-based solution for traceable turkey.’
Cargill is not the first food supplier to use a blockchain system to track its products.
China-based ZhongAn Technology announced a similar system in June to track chickens.
Unlike Cargill, the company plans to track chickens on an individual level using sensors attached to the birds themselves.
Tracking food to cater for consumers’ ethical and taste preferences is one thing.
But it could also save lives.
IBM, Dole, Walmart and Tyson Foods announced a consortium in August to develop a blockchain tracking system, in an effort to cut down the time it takes to pinpoint the source of foodborne illness and eradicate it.
Walmart Vice President, Frank Yiannas, said:
‘IBM has spent a lot of time coding and creating a real product that you can start using. There’s legitimate framework and substance in terms of the product, the technology that’s available. It’s substantial and real.’
If successful, the project, which will extend Walmart’s own custom blockchain proof-of-concept for food safety and traceability to the other partners, stands to cut down on the time it takes to track down dangerous food from weeks to just seconds.
This is just one example of the scope and scale of the blockchain opportunity.
There’s a much bigger picture playing out.
It’s all about disrupting trust. Or more accurately disrupting models of trust that have been around thousands of years.
That means the whole commerce chain — from producer to you — is about to be re-invented.
Quite simply, it’s a blockchain revolution.
Editor, Money Morning