An insurer in China has developed a blockchain-based technology that allows consumers to track every aspect of the chickens they eat – an important concern in meat labelled as “organic” or “free-range.”
The system was developed by ZhongAn Technology, the tech incubator arm of insurer ZhongAn Online Property & Casualty Insurance. Known as Gogochicken, each chicken wears an anklet that tracks various information, such as its age and location, the distance it walks daily, air and water quality, and quarantine and slaughter dates. This information is verifiable using blockchain, the same digital ledger technology fuelling cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
Food safety is a major concern in China, as there have been several scandals involving food producers cutting corners and selling substandard and dangerous products. Suppliers have been discovered selling rotten meat and passing off rat meat as lamb. The 2008 milk scandal also saw a milk producer selling products mixed with melamine, leading to the hospitalisation of thousands of babies, along with six deaths.
According to ZhongAn, technology can help increase trust in the food sector by documenting valuable information. This technology can also reduce risk for insurers of farms, minimising the chance of another food scandal erupting and dealing massive losses.
“It’s difficult for ordinary consumers to distinguish a captive chicken and a free-range chicken,” Xuefeng Li, chief technology officer of ZhongAn Technology, told Fast Company. Free-range chickens take longer and cost more to raise; and some unscrupulous producers try to pass off captive chicken as free-range to make more profit.
“The rural market is huge, and the rural financial market is huge as well . . . the agriculture industry has a lack of data accumulation, so it is costly and risky to carry out financial activities,” Li added.
As of September, ZhongAn has worked with 200 farms, and it hopes to reach 2,500 farms by 2020. The chicken industry is huge in China, with seven billion chickens sold each year. The insurer is planning to extend the technology to other livestock, and a similar tracing technology is in the works for crops.
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