Heifer USA unveils farm-to-fork food tracking technology, testing underway in California

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 458 views 

A group of Arkansas livestock farmers, supported by Heifer USA, will use cutting-edge technology to let customers know where their dinner was grown.

The small-scale suppliers of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative are the first in the United States to use blockchain technology to trace their products from farm to fork, with the aim of giving consumers more confidence in the origin and quality of the meat they buy.

Shoppers and diners will be able to scan QR codes on Grass Roots products to learn where the meat came from and how the animals were raised. The digital history of the meat will also include stories of the people — from farmer to butcher — who contributed in crafting the final product, according to Heifer USA.

“Americans have an increasing interest in better understanding what they’re eating. According to the 2016 Label Insight Study, 83% of consumers want more information about what’s in their food, and I totally believe it,” said Cody Hopkins, Grass Roots general manager and founding member. “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. Provenance, a UK-based company, has developed a platform that levels the playing field for small-scale farmers and puts information directly in consumers hands.”

Grass Roots pays $38.08 ($29 British pounds) per month for the service and each collaborator – farmers, processors, etc. – pays the same fee, Heifer International spokeswoman Allison Stephens told Talk Business & Politics. The meat prices will not rise to off-set the code costs, she said.

Customers can download an app to scan the bar code on the package. Information about the farm, the farmer, the animal, where it was processed, what it was fed and other information will be provided to the customer. The program is in its “beta stage” and will only be used in a test market in California, she said. The next phase will include farmers and consumers from Arkansas. Since the program is untested, there haven’t been attempts to partner with other organizations until the test phase is complete.

“Our farmers are innovative, always looking for ways to incorporate the latest technology that ultimately create real value to the consumer. 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,” Heifer USA Advisory Board Chair Pierre Ferrari said.

San Francisco-based Golden Gate Meat Company debuted the first trial of this technology Wednesday (Aug. 2), giving customers the opportunity to use the tools in stores. Grass Roots meats are available for purchase online and can be found in restaurants and retailers across the country.

Golden Gate Meat Company is a family owned and operated business that has been distributing natural and organic meats to wholesale customers – including restaurants, culinary institutes, caterers, and hotels – in the San Francisco Bay area since 1977. They also run an old-fashioned butcher shop and charcuterie in the Ferry Building Marketplace that offers natural and organic beef, veal, pork, lamb, poultry, wild game, offal and smoked meats.

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