Cargill of­fers more trace­able tur­keys for Thanks­giv­ing din­ner

Lodi News-Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Kris­ten Leigh Pain­ter

Cargill is ex­pand­ing its trace­able turkey pro­gram this hol­i­day sea­son so more con­sumers can know the name of the farmer who raised their Thanks­giv­ing birds.

The Min­netonka-based agribusi­ness tested the pro­gram in Texas last year with its Honey­suckle White brand. Con­sumers re­sponded so fa­vor­ably the com­pany de­cided to nearly quadru­ple the num­ber of trace­able birds avail­able in stores this Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.

Cargill is also broad­en­ing the avail­abil­ity to ma­jor met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas in about 30 states. A lim­ited num­ber of fresh whole birds are also avail­able through on­line re­tailer Ama­zon.

It’s the lat­est ex­am­ple of a large food man­u­fac­turer re­spond­ing to con­sumers’ de­sire for more in­for­ma­tion about how and where their food was grown.

“We knew it was some­thing con­sumers said they wanted, but then to ac­tu­ally see a lot of pos­i­tive re­sponse re­ally sealed the deal on why were do­ing it and why we should con­tinue to do it,” said Kassie Long, Cargill’s brand man­ager for Honey­suckle White.

The trac­ing is en­abled through a tech­nol­ogy called blockchain that al­lows mul­ti­ple users to add in­for­ma­tion to a “dig­i­tal ledger” that is shared across a net­work of com­put­ers. Be­cause the data is con­stantly up­dated and stored in countless places, it is harder to hack and eas­ier to ver­ify.

The food in­dus­try likes the idea of us­ing blockchain for food safety so con­tam­i­nated food could im­me­di­ately be traced. But be­yond some of the ob­vi­ous in­ter­nal in­cen­tives for com­pa­nies, many man­u­fac­tur­ers are be­gin­ning to see the emo­tional ben­e­fit blockchain could play with con­sumers, said Lau­ren De­meritt, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Hart­man Group, a con­sumer foods re­search firm.

“Con­sumers re­ally want to hear the nar­ra­tive,” De­meritt said, “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 trace­able birds have coded pack­ag­ing that a shop­per can en­ter in a text mes­sage or on the com­pany’s web­site and then im­me­di­ately re­ceive the lo­ca­tion of the farm, the name of the farmer or fam­ily, im­ages and any other in­for­ma­tion the pro­ducer wanted to share.

Farm­ers have been en­thu­si­as­tic about the pro­gram, Long said, as it gives them a chance to share more about them­selves di­rectly with con­sumers who may not know much about rais­ing tur­keys.

Cargill’s Honey­suckle team has spent the last year grow­ing its net­work of farms in the pro­gram from four to 70 in­de­pen­dent turkey op­er­a­tors in Texas and Mis­souri. That raised the num­ber of trace­able tur­keys in the mar­ket­place from 60,000 to 200,000 at thou­sands of U.S. re­tail­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral across the Twin Cities. The com­pany is still sell­ing them only dur­ing the win­ter hol­i­day sea­son, but said it is con­sid­er­ing other key sales days dur­ing the year.

Cargill said it is not charg­ing more for the trace­able tur­keys, but it’s up to re­tail­ers to set the price it sells them to con­sumers. Trace­able Honey­suckle White tur­keys on Ama­zon will cost more than in stores to cover ship­ping costs, a com­pany spokes­woman said.


The fam­ily farm of Ken Smoth­er­man, from near Waco, Texas, is part of the Cargill pro­gram that al­lows con­sumers to trace the ori­gins of their hol­i­day tur­keys.

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