In the IFC show Portlandia, characters played by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are so concerned about the early life of the chicken they are ordering in a restaurant that they insist on going to visit the farm where the bird was raised — even after their server shows them a picture of him and says reassuringly, “His name was Colin.”
Now, thanks to blockchain technology, some consumers this year are able to do virtually the same thing with the turkey they buy for Thanksgiving dinner. In a pilot program from Cargill, birds raised on certain farms are being sold with a tracking code on their package. The buyer can enter the code online to see information about the farm it came from, pictures, and even a message from the farmer who raised the turkey.
While the program, which applies to a limited number of Cargill’s Honeysuckle White turkeys, is clearly an entertaining novelty for consumers, it is, more significantly, a way for the turkey company to track its birds and be able to pinpoint them in the event that food safety or other issues arise. The technology behind the program — blockchain — is the same one that underpins the digital currency bitcoin and its variants.
Food manufacturers see blockchain as an efficient way to track fruits, vegetables, and even turkeys from farm to truck to supermarket to table, ideally adding a layer of safety and accountability to the food supply chain.
“Blockchain is one of those technologies that will disrupt in a lot of ways,” Deb Bauler, Cargill Protein’s chief information officer, told BuzzFeed News. “There are things that are compelling about it in food: It’s secure, distributed, and irrefutable; there’s a lot in it that made sense to play with in the food space.” […]