In the Fall of 2017, the first batch of Grass Roots chickens— from Falling Sky Farm in Leslie, Arkansas— were packaged at Natural State Processing and labeled with tracking information supported by blockchain technology.
“Sounds cool,” you may think. “But what is blockchain technology?” If you don’t work in tech or the financial sectors, this term probably isn’t one you’re terribly familiar with. So, here’s an infographic that sums it up pretty well.
Basically, blockchain is a way to keep records that allow the information stored to be publicly displayed and verified. It’s like an enormous, shared spreadsheet of interactions that are fact-checked and easily visible. According to this Fortune article, proponents of the technology claim that it will revolutionize our economy and our social systems.
But, what does all of this have to do with food systems? Right now, very little.
Not a lot of food companies are working with the technology, but we expect that will soon change. Recently, Walmart and IBM and a few other big food companies announced that they are testing a blockchain-based project that allows them to curb instances of food borne illness by more quickly tracing an outbreak back to its source. This internal application certainly benefits consumers but it does so largely without them ever knowing it.
At Grass Roots, we are using this technology to empower you - our community of conscientious eaters. By putting tracking information on each package, we give you access to the supply chain, the lives of animals on pasture, harvesting and ultimately processing.
The Grass Roots Way
1. Every package of Grass Roots meat is labeled with both a QR code and a shortened link to the journey of that specific species. From this blockchain-backed platform, you can see where the animal was raised, when and where it was harvested, and how many others were raised with it and processed. The transactions of ownership between farmer, processor, and Grass Roots show exactly how the meat traveled through our supply chain.
2. We operate under a policy of total transparency - our livestock standards are on our site for all to read. Our careful attention to animal husbandry and land management make our product unique, and we want people who care about food quality and health to understand how we’re different.
3. Our farms and processors have open-door policies so you can visit anytime, giving you complete access to every step in the journey. A lot of producers make claims but very few will let you see every part of the journey for yourselves.
This level of transparency is unprecedented for a meat company in the United States, which we accomplish by using Provenance—the U.K.-based tech firm that built and hosts the blockchain platform . And while we expect other companies will soon be using blockchain tech for internal tracking purposes and supply chain and data management, it will be interesting to see who is willing to share their details with consumers.