For anyone trying to understand what blockchain is and what it could mean for the U.S. beef industry, Wyoming state senator and beef producer Ogden Driskill describes it as "source verification on steroids."
A fifth-generation rancher, Driskill still owns and helps manage his family's Campstool Ranch, located at the foot of Devils Tower, in Crook County. The operation is described as commercial, cow/calf and raising "all-natural Angus beef on grass and sunshine."
Joining with other area cattle producers, Driskill says they've found blockchain is a legitimate way to look for premiums in a tight market. At press time, the program had tagged nearly 1,600 calves, and interest was continuing to grow in the concept among Wyoming's 11,400 ranchers. Those ranchers, Driskill points out, generate more than $1 billion in cattle sales annually.
FOOD SOURCE VERIFICATION
The operations Driskill markets with implement blockchain verification at birth when calves receive an RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag (Y-Tex brand), which is scanned using Tru-Test technology. The information is entered into the tracking system built through Ethereum, a blockchain app platform.
Driskill notes food-source verification is growing in importance as current shipment-tracking systems used by companies such as UPS are highly susceptible to fraud. The FBI reported that in 2010, the last year for which data has been made available, $30 billion in goods was stolen through shipment fraud.
"Beef operations producing high-quality meat can use blockchain to get a premium price every time they sell cattle, probably $150 to $200 per head," Driskill explains. "This technology also has potential to greatly expand foreign beef markets."
THE BLOCKCHAIN PROCESS
Following the birth-applied RFID tags, Driskill explains calves are scanned again at weaning and at transport. Information about time, location and ownership data stamps are loaded into the blockchain system. Calves are then tracked and scanned from feedlot to packer to retailer or restaurant. Bar codes on the meat package allow consumers to check the source of beef before they purchase it.