retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Couple of interesting animals-as-food related stories grabbed my attention because they also have a technology-and-innovation angle.

First, there was the story on National Public Radioabout how researchers seem to have come up with a way to put devices on animals so that their movements and provenance can be tracked, so that you can be assured that you are getting what you pay for.

Robyn Metcalfe, a food historian who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, says that “a GPS tracker strapped to the leg of a chicken means ‘that people who potentially will buy that chicken will know every step that that chicken has taken’.”

It isn’t just animals. The story notes that “tracking technology is already being used by California-based Driscoll's, the largest berry distributor to monitor shipments in real time” so that “consumers can hold their phones up to a QR code on the packaging of their berries to see the smiling faces of the family that grew them.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a story about how “Chinese companies are pushing facial and voice recognition and other advanced technologies as ways to protect the country’s pigs. In this Year of the Pig, many Chinese hogs are dying from a deadly swine disease, threatening the country’s supply of pork, a staple of Chinese dinner tables … So China’s ebullient technology sector is applying the same techniques it has used to transform Chinese life — and, more darkly, that the Chinese government increasingly uses to spy on its own people — to make sure its pigs are in the pink of health.”

The argument around here always has been that transparency is always the best policy, and that companies get in the most trouble when they start making arbitrary decisions about what customers don’t need to know. And so, I suppose, if that means tracking devices on chicken legs and using facial recognition technology to tells pigs apart … well, I’m all for these sorts of Eye-Openers.
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