Blockchain Technology: Can It Revolutionize The Way We Eat?
As food has become increasingly global, so too have the preferences of consumers. Wine from Argentina, meat from New Zealand, tomatoes from Spain – the average meal today can span across the entire planet. Though this increased accessibility can be a great opportunity to expand your tasting palate without leaving the comfort of your own home, it does come with its issues.
A consumer walks into a store and expects their food to be safe to consume. There exists a level of trust between supplier and buyer without any real background knowledge of where that product has been. Perhaps their chicken was slaughtered in unsanitary conditions, maybe it was pumped full of water to make it bigger, thus more appealing. The truth is, right now, very few actually know the background of their produce – be it meat, fruit, or wine.
The world is becoming more aware. Whether someone’s looking to lose weight, gain it, change their eating habits, or ensure that the only products going through their system aren’t full of chemicals, today we’re more concerned with what gets put into our bodies than ever before. Simple, isn’t it? We want the best quality and we’re willing to pay for it.
But how can we track quality? Supermarkets are littered with ‘free range’, ‘organic’ and ‘hand reared’ foods, scattered throughout the shop floor – but they will say anything to sell a product. Did you know, the RSPCA’s law for ‘free range’ breeding requires that there are no more than nine hens per square metre? That means, in the eyes of the RSPCA, 48,600 hens can be bred on a single football pitch and still be called free range.Defining quality is complex, and products can go through a number of unknown processes that the eventual consumer will never even know about.
Enter blockchain technology. By now, we’re all aware of the brilliance that blockchain will provide through the supply chain; total transparency with no opportunity for fraud. It’s perfect for various industries – but the influence that blockchain will have on the food industry is unique.
For the first time ever, consumers will have easy access – through a mobile app – to the entire process that their produce is going through. The first points that spring to mind are through food; the 2013 horsemeat scandal is only one example of thousands of instances where transparency within the supply chain would stop any poor practices within food production, and once the technology undergoes mass take up, there will be a huge upward shift in the quality of production.
This isn’t limited to food, either; it will branch out across all types of consumable products. In 1985, several Austrian wine distilleries illegally adulterated their wines using a toxic substance called diethylene glycol, which made the wine sweeter and more full bodied. With blockchain technology, that would never happen, as consumers would have the power to scrutinise the supply chain process.
The implementation of this technology would expose any poor practices throughout the industry, and could potentially benefit consumers in two primary ways. Firstly, these exposed poor practices would be clearly visible, and avoidable should the consumer wish to, resulting in a greater ability to eat and drink healthily. With the easy access to knowledge of production, purchases can be made with absolute certainty of where that product has been sourced.
Secondly, this transparency will force those responsible for the produce to make a conscious effort to improve their production in a bid to avoid the loss of business. As a result, the food industry in general becomes more credible, and bad practices will drop significantly, meaning that even those consumers that don’t pay much attention to the products they’re buying will be purchasing better quality goods.
On the whole, the quality of produce will be improved, not as a result of regulation, but simply through visibility. Those that offer the best supply chains will reap the most reward, and in the true spirit of capitalism, this will force competition to follow suit, or go even further – resulting in one continuous cycle of better quality sourcing. In all instances, the food industry will see a sharp increase in the quality of food production.