In the fall of 2017, the first batch of Grass Roots chickens— from Falling Sky in Leslie, Arkansas, packaged at Natural State Processing were labeled with tracking information supported by blockchain technology.
“Sounds cool,” you may think. “But what the heck is blockchain?” 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’s a pretty good summary.
Basically, blockchain is a way to keep records that allows the information stored to be public and verified. It’s like an enormous, shared spreadsheet of interactions that’s fact-checked and easily visible. Proponents of the technology claim that it will revolutionize our economy and our social systems. (Check out this Fortune article for more details.)
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, Wal-mart 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 foodborne illness by more quickly tracing an outbreak back to its source. This is an internal application that certainly benefits consumers but it does so largely without them ever knowing it. Grass Roots is using the technology to empower you - our community of conscientious eaters. By putting tracking information on each package, we give you access to the supply chain and the individual stories of the people at each point in the journey from pasture to plate.
Every package of Grass Roots chicken and turkey is labeled with both a QR code and a shortened that link to the journey of that specific bird.
From this blockchain-backed platform you can see where the chicken was raised, when and where it was harvested, and how many other birds were raised with it and processed on the same day. The transactions of ownership between farmer, processor, and Grass Roots show exactly how the meat traveled through our supply chain. And you can also click into the farmer and processor accounts to learn more about their stories and their values.
This level of transparency is unprecedented for a meat company in the United States. Though Provenance—the U.K.-based tech firm that built and hosts this blockchain platform—is working with a few other food producers worldwide, so far none have implemented it at the product level. 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.
Grass Roots’s careful attention to animal husbandry and land management make our meats unique, and we want people who care about food issues and health to understand how we’re different. A lot of producers make claims but very few will let you see every part of the journey for yourselves. We operate under a policy of total transparency - our livestock standards are here on our site for all to read, our farms have open farm policies so you can visit anytime and with this addition of blockchain technology every step in the journey is now available for all to see.