Behind every food item being sold, there’s a story to tell. In China, where food scares are common, many consumers are particularly anxious to hear it.
With that in mind, a Chinese e-commerce company has made it possible for customers to look at a detailed history of their steaks—from when the cow was born to what it was eating—before it’s served on their dinner tables. The information is being made available with the help of blockchain, a technology known for being hard to tamper with.
JD.com, China’s second-largest e-commerce platform, has been working with Kerchin, an Inner Mongolia-based beef manufacturer, since early May (link in Chinese) to use blockchain to track the production and delivery of frozen beef. People living in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou—China’s most populous cities—can now track the journey of beef ordered from JD.
Food fraud costs the global food industry some $40 billion each year, according to a 2016 report by PwC, but Chinese consumers are particularly fearful about food safety. Their confidence in domestic food products plummeted after tainted milk powder killed six infants in 2008. Today, “exposés” of fake food—not all of which are true—can spread like fire on Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo, only adding to the confusion and distrust. When problems do arise, the lack of transparency about how food is processed makes it challenging to pinpoint where in the supply chain things went wrong. Instead of being centralized, information is often made available to manufacturers, warehouses, and delivery companies separately.