Grass Roots Farmers' Cooperative in Clinton consider so-called locavores and farm-to-table chefs who want assurance their meat is raised organically their target demographic, and they're turning to the emerging information system blockchain technology for its ease and thoroughness of reporting.
Blockchain works by providing a shared digital ledger of trusted information that cannot be edited and is not controlled by any one person. It promises to provide at the speed of a webpage load a full history of a product, service or idea.
This same technology is also being tried by the world's largest food retailers like Walmart who are perhaps more concerned with quickly tracking the source of food contamination in the event of an outbreak or health scare.
Grass Roots works with 15 farmers who focus on sustainable farming and food practices. Blockchain will trace Grass Roots' chickens' history from pasture to plate. The co-op has begun placing QR codes on its chicken packaging that consumers can scan with a smartphone or tablet to call up information about where and how the chickens were raised and harvested.
“Right now, if you go into a grocery store, it is very difficult to understand" the full picture of a product's history, from ingredients or farm animal to ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook food, said Grass Roots general manager Cody Hopkins.
Customers may be especially concerned with meat products, he said.
Patrick Moorhead with the Chicago-based data-gatherer Label Insight said the company’s research found that most consumers would prefer more information about their food.
“If I want to know if a particular product is gluten free, or meets my requirements for my Whole 30diet, that piece of transparency, if it’s not on the label, is valuable to me and would move my purchase decision,” he said.
Moorhead said that preference for more information was obvious among all age and gender groups, but was especially true for young moms who wield billions of dollars in purchasing decision power.