The promising potential of blockchain for the red meat industry

Blockchain is a concept that is often referenced but rarely fully understood.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin introduced the concept of blockchain to the masses but, for many, there remain big question marks about what it actually is and what it means for the world. One thing is for certain, the potential of blockchain reaches far beyond cryptocurrency. 

At its core, blockchain is a technology that enables unprecedented levels of trust in the transfer of value or assets between two parties, without the need for a trusted middleman (like a bank for example).  All transactions are recorded in a list or – as it is commonly known in blockchain parlance – a ledger. That ledger is then distributed between all users of the blockchain.


What are unique benefits of blockchain?

The decentralized nature of blockchain means no single entity is responsible for verifying transactions that occur on it. Blockchain enables total transparency of information because each party holds a copy of the data. It is also fault tolerant as there are many parties, and therefore many copies of the data. Finally, information is immutable. Entries added to the blockchain cannot be changed after they are written as it’s easy to spot when someone tries to change something.


How can blockchain help the red meat industry?

Although we remain primarily in the research and development phase of blockchain, the potential benefits for the red meat industry have already sparked serious interest in Australia and other large red meat producing countries around the world.

Several potential use cases and benefits have already been identified, some of which are particularly pertinent to Australia’s export markets, like the EU. Blockchain can:

  • Reassure consumers regarding the provenance of their meal.
  • Tackle food fraud and enhance product safety by reducing misrepresentation of red meat products in overseas export markets.
  • Improve supply chain security and provenance by storing tracking information, to provide assurance that each participant along the supply chain did the right thing.
  • Help optimize supply chains by digitalizing and improving the export documentation processes.
  • Provide even greater levels of trust in supply chain data that’s shared between participating parties.
  • Enable more efficient ‘smart contracts’, which are programmed contracts that automatically execute when agreed parameters are met.


What’s happening in the Australian red meat industry to test these use cases?

 MLA is undertaking several levy and MLA Donor Company (MDC) funded research projects to identify the most valuable blockchain use cases for the red meat industry.

1. Evaluation of blockchain technology to deliver industry integrity programs

An investigation into whether blockchain technology offers any advantages for MLA, in how industry integrity programs are managed (i.e. decentralised model over a centralised model).

2. Evaluation of technology to support provenance

An exploration of the benefits of using blockchain as an alternative process to verify provenance within two beef supply chains.

3. Development of integrity system to connect international consumer with Australian red meat for increased value

An evaluation of a pilot demonstration of an encrypted supply chain in both the lamb and beef supply chains.


What’s next?

Once the results of these research projects have been analyzed, MLA and its partners will be able to harness the actionable insights gained and start implementing blockchain in real-world settings to make sure the Australian red meat industry is making the most of this emerging technology.


Article Date: 24th February 2020

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