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Track That Turkey

APICS CEO

Friday November 23, 2018


Consumers have increasing appetites for knowledge about where their food comes from. This Thanksgiving, major U.S. turkey brands served up additional details about the origins of their products thanks to the support of blockchain and other technologies. Minnesota’s StarTribune reports that Austin, Minnesota-based Hormel Foods Corp. and Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. both are giving consumers the tools to trace the origins of their holiday poultry.

In early November, Hormel Foods’ Jennie-O brand rolled out special coded labels for its whole-bird turkeys. When a consumer enters the label code on the Jennie-O Turkey Tracker webpage, he or she receives information about the region where the turkey was raised, pictures of the family who operates the farm and a quote from the farmer.

“Consumers really want to hear the narrative,” said Lauren Demeritt, chief executive of consumer foods research firm Hartman Group, in a StarTribune article. “Narratives about the care and intent that went into products can really drive sales. If you can trace that back to people and families, there is a halo around [the product].”

The initiative took the second-largest U.S. turkey producer more than a year to set up. To date, 52 farms are involved in this traceability effort. The Jennie-O staff intends to regularly update the Turkey Tracker page to share the most up-to-date information about its whole turkeys year-round. This service is being provided at no additional cost to consumers.

Neighboring turkey brand Honeysuckle White by Cargill launched a similar initiative this year. Honeysuckle White’s traceability program offers consumers a bit more information about the birds than Jennie-O’s program does, but the program is only available during November and December. Consumers can find each turkey’s unique code on the Honeysuckle White packaging and text it to the company or enter it on the company’s website to learn more about the holiday bird. Through the support of blockchain technology, the company is able to share the location of the farm where the turkey was raised, the name of the farmer or farmer family, images of the farm, and a variety of other information the producer can choose to share.

Honeysuckle White first piloted this traceability technology last year in Texas with about 60,000 turkeys from four farms.  The consumer response was so positive that the company decided to partner with 66 additional farmers to produce 200,000 traceable turkeys for this year’s release. The tracked turkeys are available in 30 states, and a limited number of fresh whole birds are available through Amazon. The company also is considering expanding the initiative to cover other popular consumption holidays throughout the year.  

Farmers have been enthusiastic about the initiative as well. Kassie Long, Cargill’s brand manager for Honeysuckle White, explains that the program gives farmers the opportunity to share more information about themselves directly with consumers who might not know much about raising turkeys.

Although food enthusiasts have been interested in the farm-to-table story for years now, these new initiatives from two of the three largest U.S. turkey producers shows that food traceability is no longer a niche trend. Consumers are hungry for information, and now technology like blockchain makes it easier to serve up additional details about a variety of products.

Sharing gratitude

Yesterday, millions of consumers across the United States celebrated Thanksgiving, indulged in turkeys — some were even lucky enough to have a traceable one — and gave thanks for the gifts in their lives. This year, I’m especially thankful for the support of members, volunteers, channel partners and all of those around the world who are supporting the organization as we launch the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM).

Thank you for your dedication to the field, your countless hours of volunteering, your thought leadership and your partnership with us. Our organization’s progress, innovations and accomplishments would not be possible without you.