The Food on Your Holiday Table May Have Been Verified by Blockchain
A holiday table is no longer just a feast for the senses. It’s a feast of data.
That data has been harvested by countless food growers, producers and retailers and sent in a million different directions across the globe. IBM Food Trust, built on blockchain, is helping to harness these sprawling stacks of data, allowing sellers and consumers to trace their food from farm to warehouse to kitchen. For more eco- and safety-conscious diners, this information is crucial for ensuring a safer, smarter, more transparent and more sustainable food ecosystem.
Today, more than 200 companies are members of Food Trust, the first network of its kind to connect participants across the food supply chain through a permanent and shared record of data. The result is a suite of solutions that improve food safety and freshness, unlock supply chain efficiencies, minimize waste and empower consumers who care about where their food comes from.
Food Trust can also bring transparency—and some fascinating conversation starters—to the holiday table. Here are some classic holiday foods that are now backed by the blockchain.
Those hard-boiled eggs on the appetizer platter are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. But how comfortable were the chickens that laid them? Were they free-range or caged? Fed with antibiotics? Raised on organic feed?
For food shoppers in Italy, questions about hen welfare are now instantly answerable from their own phones. More than 200 million organic eggs from 2 million hens are now traceable thanks to the implementation of blockchain by the Coop Italia grocery chain. Consumers can have full transparency about the production of Coop brand eggs by scanning a QR code on the packaging.
The system allows shoppers to trace the entire life history of their eggs, from the incubator the hen was born in, to the day of the egg’s hatching, to the exact date it landed in the grocery store’s shelf. Customers don’t just get great eggs—they get the confidence of knowing where they came from.
Ever tried blockchain? It tastes just like chicken!
At least it does when you shop at the European grocery chain Carrefour, where chicken is being tracked by IBM Food Trust alongside a mix of other foods, like eggs, milk, oranges, pork and cheese. (The selection of foods will grow by more than 100 over the next year.) So popular is the blockchain-tracked chicken that the grocer reports sales growth exceeding that of non-blockchain poultry.
Carrefour shoppers can use their smartphone to scan QR codes on the chicken’s packaging, surfacing information about the livestock’s date of birth, nutrition information and packing date. Customers can also learn about the food’s journey from farm to store, providing additional transparency about the life and times of your main holiday course.
The coffee smells delicious and tastes even better. But where exactly did those beans come from? Some of the world’s top coffee firms are using blockchain to trace the entire lifespan of coffee from the farms where your beans are grown right to the mug in your hand.
An entire coffee supply chain can be traced using the new IBM Food Trust platform. As part of this solution, IBM is working with an agribusiness startup to build a new coffee-tracing app, which provides java drinkers with detailed data about the history of their favorite beverage, including its place of origin.
Salmon, Scallops and Shrimp
The days are long over when we could simply trust that all of our seafood was correctly labeled and sustainably caught. Now we need assurance. IBM Food Trust is contributing to a variety of efforts to bring more trust and transparency to supply chain of the fish and seafood we consume.
The Sustainable Shrimp Partnership is using blockchain to trace the journey of Ecuadorian farmed shrimp and demonstrate the highest social and environmental standards. Raw Seafoods in Massachusetts is tracing the provenance of fresh scallops and allowing consumers in restaurants to use a QR code to learn about the seafood’s quality and origin.
Salmon-farming company Cermaq and smoked salmon producer Labeyrie are using Food Trust to trace their product supply chains. And the National Fisheries Institute has also joined the network in an effort to trace multiple seafood species.
A fresh green salad used to be a no-brainer on the holiday table. But that was before a wave of scares about contaminated lettuce. In response, some of the world’s largest grocery companies are using Food Trust to trace produce from farms to packing facilities all the way to grocery shelves.
Before blockchain, it could take days to identify the source of leafy greens—an unacceptably long delay during an outbreak of foodborne illness. With blockchain, sourcing can be traced in seconds. By locating contaminated products and removing them from store shelves faster, retailers can offer consumers more confidence that the salad course is once again the healthiest part of their feast.
Everybody’s got their own mashed potato trick. (We’re partial to adding a hint of aromatic thyme, rosemary or garlic.) But here’s a new one: Buyers of France’s famed Mousline instant mashed potatoes can now scan a QR code on the product’s packaging to learn all about the variety and provenance of the mix’s underlying potatoes.
Switzerland-based food giant Nestlé, French supermarket chain Carrefour and IBM Food Trust are partnering to use blockchain technology to track each packet of Mousline. A barcode on the packages can be scanned with a smartphone, giving consumers information about the mix they’re about to prepare, including the region where the potatoes were grown, the varieties used, and the places and dates of storage before it reached the grocer.
A side of pasta now comes with a side of assurance for holiday cooks. Italian foodmaker Gruppo Grigi is using Food Trust to certify that its Aliveris pastas are made from organic Italian wheat and non-GMO products.
Using IBM’s platform, customers can view a range of product details from the origin of the organic durum wheat seeds, to the select farmers growing the wheat, to its transport all the way to grocery shelves.
Where did the apples in that dessert pie come from? Chilean company Agricom wants its customers to have complete confidence in the answer. It recently joined the Food Trust to trace its fruits that reach consumers’ tables, including avocados, oranges, lemons and, of course, apples.
One goal for Agricom is to provide transparency and confidence to final buyers of the fruits produced in its six plants in Chile. Another motivation is to reduce the loss of food in the production and distribution chain, thereby ensuring the lowest environmental cost and the best resulting price for consumers.