Blockchain could be the cattle data tool that replaces multiple spreadsheets and even boot boxes filled with papers and receipts. Eventually, it could be the answer to bypassing multinational packers to export beef.
Danna Schwenk, a partner in Nebraska-based Flying Diamond Beef, is overseeing the implementation of a blockchain traceability system and utilizing CattlePass, founded by Robert Jennings. CattlePass uses blockchain to generate a secure and unique digital record of livestock, called a non-fungible token. This living record is verifiable, and, through CattlePass Smart Contracts, ownership can be transferred digitally.
More simply, cattle can be assigned Bluetooth tracking sensors or EID tags, the cattle can digitally carry with them a private but publicly accessible dataset. That data can be used to offer traceability to analyze genomic traits as they transfer to an eating experience, can validate the proof of ownership, can assist in more accurate herd valuation, can ensure real time transfer of ownership and payments, and can also allow access to specifically selected information through scanning a QR code so consumers can learn more about the cattle or ranch. All of this data, in contrast to spreadsheets, is immutable and verifiable.
CattlePass and Flying Diamond Beef partnered and inserted Bluetooth sensors into 20 head of cattle. The sensors, inserted into the neck where injections are given, can be picked up with either a phone or laptop to offer proof of life and be updated with metadata including treatment dates, location updates, and other information. The unique animal identification is put on the blockchain and attached to the specific producer, in this case Wilson Ranch. A GPS location and premise identification are uploaded along with facial recognition to create a non-fungible token or NFT, a unique identifier, on the blockchain for each of the 20 head. Each individual has a unique NFT that resides in the owner’s digital wallet.
Over time, the Bluetooth chip can give data like body temperature and the facial recognition photos can be updated as the individual grows.
“If I were to sell you a couple of calves, I would digitally transfer those tokens to you and all of the information on those animals would transfer to you as well in a validated manner,” Jennings said. “When the tokens are transferred, the first person loses the ability to transfer them any further and you now have possession of those tokens and you can transfer them to the next party or you could give permission to certain people to see them — your veterinarian, a potential buyer, the brand committee, the CVI can be attached. It’s just a way to create data sets for individual animals.”
Through the CattlePass app, each individual token can be opened and accessed, and the app is connected to the digital wallet. The solution, he said, can help with regulatory compliance but the producer owns the data and sharing only with who they choose.
Schwenk compares it to digital medical records attached to a patient who, rather than request documents be sent from one doctor to another, can allow the doctor to access the digital record containing all of the health data associated with that patient. With the amount of data attached to livestock, it is also important that the owner be able to control which data can be accessed by different entities.
In the Flying Diamond Beef business, for example, a QR code can be made available to consumers at restaurants who can then access information the beef company makes available so the consumer can learn about the ranch, the beef company, and the cattle herd. Then, information can be shared regarding whether the eating experience was positive or negative, and compared to the genomic data to aid the ranchers in trait selection on the hoof. On the flip side, consumers that access the QR code can give their information and accept direct marketing in the future. The building of relationships between producer and consumer, she said, is an important marketing tool.
“We want to guarantee a great eating experience, that is the end goal of the beef producer,” she said. “Cow calf producers are out there making a wholesome product, but at the end of the day, we have to be cautious because one bad apple is one return customer we’ve lost.”
Potentially, a group of producers could tag in and validate data to meet whatever protocol set forth to put together a container for export of 30,000 pounds of beef. There are export buyers who will purchase verified beef meeting standards processed by a small network of small to medium sized regional processors.
The partnership between Flying Diamond Beef Company and CattlePass will help establish protocols moving forward to determine which data points belong on a blockchain and how to scale to the point of filling a container for export.
The blockchain, he said, is the most pure source of verified data that can’t be manipulated to increase consumer and producer confidence in real time.