Meat Traceability - Getting to the meat at every point of the supply chain

India is a melting pot of different cultures, so they say. Across the country, though there are multiple cultural variations, languages, customs etc, one thing which stays constant is the ubiquity of different types of food, both of the vegetarian and non-vegetarian variety. Contrary to popular perception, nearly 70% of Indians consume meat in one form or another. Based on whichever region one finds themselves in, a melange of poultry meat, mutton, seafood do find their place in various forms. Despite its ubitquity, around 40% of the meat market is still quite unorganized. With the advent of new startups, we do see a lot of streamlining happening, but still there are many consumers who have their concerns about the sourcing of meat, driven by ethical, religious or health concerns as well. Meat traceability has always been a grey area, but if we can establish the same even upto an aggregate level, it will greatly promote confidence in the integrity and origin of their products.

Traceability of food – A brief summation

The food we consume traverses a long distance before it comes to our plates. Right from the farms where it is grown or reared, till it goes to the end consumer, they are being exchanged at multiple points like, the aggregator, wholesaler, retailer, warehouser, transporter at various durations. Traceability, at the very essence, helps us to track the journey of the product at these various points down to the last detail till its provenance so that we can be assured of its sourcing, transportation and quality

Over the years, there have been various issues in the supply chain of meat and poultry products which has strengthened the case of ensuring traceability across the different products. Be it the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza, which is still prevalent in many parts of India, various issues, have affected the final product for the consumers.Consumers today want a trust in what they are purchasing and a brand to identify with which can give it. The capability to track each product as intimately as possible is important for establishing its wholesomeness, in terms of both safety and quality. Traceability allows microbial contamination, storage issues, transportation malaises etc. to be pinpointed accurately and brought under control quickly. It doest stop at just promoting the investigation of the causes of food safety issues, but also allows companies to establish the bona fides of a variety of quality claims, such as organic and natural, and ones more specific to meat and egg, like farm-fresh, ethically raised and so on. Finally, as a meat processor or a farmer as well, it is not just about increasing trust in their brands but also commanding premiums for their products  that provide that transparency and, at the end of the day, instill trust.

Establishing End to End Traceability on the backbone of Blockchain

Currently, there are a lot of technologies which have tried to establish traceability on a farm to fork basis. Most systems in use today predominantly involve  methods based on radio frequency identification (RFID) and DNA fingerprinting. Though there is some merit to these methods in achieving the objective, they are incomplete or at the maximum, offer partial traceability at certain points in the supply chain.To offer a redressal for all these lacunas and to achieve complete end to end traceability in the supply chain, Blockchain technology can be used to ensure the storage of all information related to the food products in a shared, immutable, visible and transparent system for all the parties along the supply chain. Across the business spectrum, there have been several blockchain use cases that have been implemented to track and trace the movements of food products throughout the stages of the supply chain and consequently to ensure the integrity of food products. One of the more famous ones among them include the Nestle case study with the IBM blockchain in tracking the provenance of food products, including meat.

At Chainflux, we have developed a blockchain based buffalo meat traceability system. This platform was built on our proprietary blockchain platform, Shine and the platform gave a complete traceability ledger recording all points of the supply chain at the back end. This solution not just gives complete traceability to the meat company, but also empowers the end consumers to verify and check the authenticity of products in-store, thereby creating greater confidence and trust. The consumer, in the store, will be able to use their smart mobile device to scan a QR code on the specific meat product which will provide them with detailed information about the product’s journey to the shelf. The graphics below explains this is more figurative detail

Fig 1 : Track every product back to the source

QR codes fixed on product’s packaging, will give the consumer access to the information stored on our Shine blockchain which will be similar to an augmented reality experience. This provides consumers with product information that suits their evolving purchase drivers and market trends.This establishes all the key metrics which the end consumer would want to know about the specific product he/she is purchasing. Right from the place of origin, the processing plants, storage details etc. the transparent nature of the information would bolster the credibility of the brand in the consumer’s eyes. Also giving the consumer the complete details about the quality and how it is measured will significantly increase the trustworthiness of the product and will be a key factor for the consumer to pay a premium as well for the product. Hence the benefits are manifold, both from a consumer’s perspective and also from the side of the meat company as well.

Fig 2: The screen on the consumer’s mobile once the QR code is scanned

This will serve to benefit all the parties across the meat supply chain, be it the farmers who rear the animals, the meat processing companies, the exporters and the end consumers as well. Some of the key benefits are outlined below :

  • Traceability of buffalo meat  from end consumer to aggregate farmer level
  • Proactive identification of any disease outbreaks and curtailing the same, if it may occur to that point of the supply chain only
  • Easy procurement of fodder, checking animal health through the portal, and re-use of manure to neighboring farms
  • End product NFC tags to ensure Halal authenticity with digital certificates.
  • Leverage Shine blockchain to increase quality benchmarking by identifying lacunae at various points in the value chain
  • The granularity blockchain provides during product recalls makes it possible to avoid mass recalls of an entire product line, reducing food wastage as well as the total financial cost and the impact on brand image.

Hence to sum it up, companies that have well-developed traceability programs will enjoy competitive advantages over those without such systems. Blockchain is the technology offering detailed traceability when compared to others, and on a technical scale, most of the challenges have been solved. Thus, a compulsory international animal product traceability system has to be established in every country, which needs to be spearheaded by Governmental regulatory agencies as well, such as FSSAI & APEDA in India, and will prove hugely beneficial to the consumers and the industry in toto.

Found this interesting? Do check out the solutions offered by Chainflux by clicking the links to the use cases we have developed using blockchain technology. We were recently covered by The Hindu on our traceability solution offered to NSE, read more about it here (https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/markets/gold/nse-bengaluru-blockchain-start-up-launch-nse-shine-for-bullion-trade/article36999633.ece). Drop us a line at marketing@chainflux.com

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