If someone ever told me that one-day blockchain-based technology would be employed at cattle branding, I’d have called them absolute bonkers. Turns out, it’s happening right here, right now, in America’s cowboy state.
On a ranch in northern Wyoming, not far from the Belle Fourche River, ranchers have joined stealth startup BeefChain, to implement a shared, distributed ledger called a blockchain with the end goal to connect the world’s cattle supply chain.
To give an idea of the potential scope of the BeefChain blockchain consortium, roughly 11,400 Wyoming farms last year generated $1.1 billion in cattle sales, making it the 14th-largest producer among U.S. states. This is in America’s least populated state, which is home to an estimated 579,315 people, and 2.1 million cattle.
According to Wyoming senator Odgen Driskill, blockchain technology can help capture and safeguard every step of the supply chain. If Wyoming farms can prove to the ultimate buyer that these are open-range cattle, reared in cowboy country – rather than a cramped pen, they can get a premium of up to $700 per head, or almost 30 percent.
While BeefChain is still in the earliest stages of development, Driskill inaugurated the project on May 15 by tagging 323 calves from his ranch with RFID tags that will soon be linked to an immutable supply-chain ledger.
BeefChain Project is a part of a push by Wyoming to position itself at the helm of the ‘crypto’ revolution. Cofounders Rob Jennings and Tony Rose have partnered with former Morgan Stanley managing director and former president of blockchain startup Symbiont, Caitlin Long, to set the next plan in motion.
Use of blockchain to track cattle is the perfect example of why it’s important to merge the old tradition of the agriculture industry with the emergent technologies of today. With blockchain, data such as what grass the cattle has been fed, what type of vaccines it has received, and if it was ever sick will be available for anyone to see. Ranchers who are a part of the BeefChain blockchain consortium believe their brand of beef will be far superior.
This kind of traceability would stay with the beef all the way to the shelf so a customer could scan a code and see all the information. At the end of the day, the world beef market demands this level of transparency.
As with every other technology, ‘misuse or manipulation’ of data is one aspect that needs to be explored and dealt with. For instance, a rancher could easily use RFID tags to track data points and later manipulate it to raise the beef prices.
With BeefChain, there’s little to no scope of deleting or changing these data points. Any errors noted have to be corrected. By the end of next year, consumers will be able to go to a store, scan a QR code and learn about the beef before they buy.
In recent months, about 200 new blockchain-based companies have emerged in Wyoming, according to state records, with names like Something Something Blockchain and Bison Crypto Power.
The state’s Republican governor, Matt Mead, says blockchain to track beef could become a ‘fourth leg’ of Wyoming’s economy, behind tourism, energy and agriculture.