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DecisionNext Blog

Blockchain, the food chain & the billion dollar problems to be solved

Published by Janette Barnard November 17, 2017

Changes in technology push the boundaries of what’s possible. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of computing power and data: Starting with blockchain.

You can’t buy blockchain at Ace Hardware, Bass Pro, or Tractor Supply. You can’t even buy it on Amazon. Blockchain isn’t a physical product. Blockchain is a technology advancement in the way (certain types of) data points are captured, stored, transferred, and accounted for.

Blockchain technology is most widely known as the technology foundation that digital currencies are built on. There’s a burgeoning industry of engineers, analysts and financial products growing around the “cryptocurrencies”. (If you want a fascinating rabbit hole, google 2017 Bitcoin market.)

But our interest is not in the novelty of blockchain technology. Our interest is in the impact this technology will have on the food industry, specifically the meat value chain.

Companies like Cargill are trying to lead the way in unlocking the potential of blockchain to create value for consumers. The Wall Street Journal recently covered Cargill’s aggressive initiative to “bring the digital supply chain to life” from turkey farm to retail consumer.

Can you imagine picking out a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner by accessing information about that specific bird in that specific plastic bag all the way back to the farm where the bird was raised? The mind boggles. And yet, this will soon be reality.

Here’s a look at 3 problems in the meat value chain that blockchain could help solve:

  1. Traceability & Food Safety. Finding a way to track product through the typically multi-staged, complex supply chain that most meat travels before ending up on a consumer’s plate has been a vexing puzzle for the meat industry. The missing link was not the will, it was the way. Blockchain could enable the tracking of any number of characteristics about meat as it moves through the supply chain.  Because of its ability to improve traceability, blockchain lends itself to improving food safety both from a preventative standpoint as well as drastically reducing reaction time in the case of a recall.
  2. Price discoveryPrice reporting varies by protein. In beef and pork, price reporting to USDA is mandatory by law. But within the definitions of what is required to be reported, there’s gray area that gives packers room to flex on what prices get reported and what prices are kept out of the published market. The lines get even more blurred in the poultry industry. If enough participants throughout the supply chain decide that price transparency is critical to a well functioning market, blockchain could serve as an ideal mechanism for capturing accurate prices and providing price transparency to appropriate participating parties.
  3. Food waste reduction. $72 billion of food is wasted in America each year from the farm to the retailer or restaurant. The increased visibility of blockchain could be leveraged to shorten the information distance from one step in the supply chain to the next. By streamlining supply chains and increasing accurate information sharing, food waste can be reduced. A win for everyone from producers to consumers.

Blockchain has the potential to transform the way information flows through the supply chain and therefore how VALUE flows.

Download the White Paper: The Missing Link in the Food Chain


This article was originally published on Meatingplace.