Wyoming ranch beefs up the blockchain experience
Blockchain is rapidly proving itself useful across a multitude of industries – from banking trade finance and exporter supply chain records, to . . . raising cattle.
Indeed, The Salt blogsite on Wednesday published the story of Wyoming rancher Bonita Carlson who is using a new blockchain application called Beefchain.io to tag and track her cattle using the distributed ledger technology.
The problem that Beefchain.io hopes to solve is that cattle from Wyoming – with its wide open spaces and huge plains of nourishing grass – are among the best in the US.
But when cattle merchants get hold of them, Wyoming’s finest will be sent to abattoirs along with cattle from other ranches that may not produce the same quality of beef. The source of beef can become further clouded once it finds its way on to supermarket shelves.
Traceability is becoming big business as international markets continue to demand greater transparency of their food sources, following scandals such as the horsemeat debacle in the UK.
Through Beefchain.io Carlson has tagged 250 steer calves with blockchain tags at a cost of $5 per tag.
By using these tags, they can keep their cattle separate right through the beef production process, from recording each calf’s lineage, what they eat, what medical and hygiene treatments they’ve received, right through to the packing process and appearance on supermarket shelves.
Carlson hopes that by using blockchain to document her cattle’s progress towards the shelf it will increase their value by up to 20%.
Agricultural traceability has been around for a long time, however, and appropriate systems already exist. Indeed, critics claim that blockchain is an expensive solution waiting for a problem.
“There is a high level of hype around the use of blockchains, yet the technology is not well understood. It is not magical; it will not solve all problems,” said Dylan Yaga in a paper for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He added: “There other technologies out there in existence that’s been around much longer that could possibly be employed to solve the same problem.”
Nevertheless, Beefchain.io believes that consumers are growing ever wary of the quality of their food and would prefer to go to store where they can learn about the life, lineage and treatment of their beef before they buy.