Traceability is now part of the product development process in the food industry. This “paper trail” has become almost as important to some processors as the material safety data sheet.
It’s the basis of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, Clinton, Arkansas, a farm-to-door premium meat delivery co-op that matches local farmers around the US with online meat buyers. Founded in 2014 by husband and wife — Cody Hopkins and Andrea Tody — Grass Roots’ intention is to change the way meat is produced and consumed across the US, with the additional goal of authenticating the integrity of the food we consume. The couple believe it shouldn’t be so difficult to understand what you’re eating and how it was raised. In the past six years, the cooperative has brought in more than 20 farms across the US, all with the common objective of sustainable livestock farming.
A physicist turned farmer and CEO, Hopkins’ vision when he began was to create a farming business that was good for the animals, good for the environment and good for customers. In order to create an innovative farming business, he is continually embedding the latest thinking into every aspect of the business — from regenerative agriculture to blockchain technology — with a focus on transparency through traceability.
“The next decade will see the transparent documentation of a product’s life cycle,” said Hakan Demirci, consumer analyst at GlobalData. “This will improve food safety, as potential bacteria-related hazards can be pinpointed for detection and eliminated with ease and speed. This will be achieved as technological innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain improves in application and efficiency.
“For example, blockchain can map a product’s lifespan on the chain, providing a transparent chain of ownership for a particular asset,” Demirci said. “These records cannot be erased or altered, ensuring accountability throughout the whole process, an important aspect of transparency.”
Hopkins explained that each farmer member of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative uses regenerative agriculture practices and implements the only consumer-facing blockchain technology. This allows the consumer to follow every step of their order to ensure that their meat has been humanely raised and treated.
“We want you to know not only where your food comes from, but how it was raised, what it was fed and when it was processed,” he said. “You can track all our products from pasture to plate.
“We raise whole animals, and our offering reflects this,” he said. “Whole-animal eating respects the animal, the land and ensures nothing goes to waste. An average steer produces only 10 percent of steak cuts per animal. At Grass Roots, we offer the amount of product per animal that is sustainable. In doing so, we’re reminding consumers that real food, produced in real time, means some cuts are only available in limited quantities. We’re committed to taking consumers back to a traditional, more conscientious way of consuming meat.”
As part of the whole-animal goal, several of the farmer members make sausages on their farm. They use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible to season the meats.
“Raised by hand, processed by hand,” is the cooperative’s platform.