A pack of meat with a FollowThisFood QR code

An online meat box company is offering its customers full traceability through the use of “active” labels on produce.

Goldhill Organics, based in Dorset, is thought to be the first meat-box supplier to use such food-traceability software, by using QR codes on its packaging.

QR codes are digital barcodes, represented by a small square filled with black and white blocks.

They can be scanned by mobile phones to take the user to a website.

Food fraud

Goldhill is using FollowThisFood, made by Agrantec, and was prompted to get involved with the scheme by recent food fraud and labelling issues.

“Providing high-quality, local produce from small producers in a highly transparent way is the very essence of what Goldhill does,” said co-founder of Goldhill Organics, Nick Somper.

“We have all read about misleading labelling and the use of fictional farm brands so FollowThisFood provides our customers with the trust and confidence that the food they are buying is exactly what it claims to be.”

The FollowThisFood app allows consumers to trace meat directly to farm, even to an individual animal, and follow the journey from farm to fork in detail.

See also: More about traceability

Farm details such as location, acreage, feed and breed are included as well as abattoir information and butcher details with a link to the butcher’s website.

Producers involved in the scheme input livestock management information online, to allow FollowThisFood to share information with consumers.

Happy Valley Farm, Semley, Dorset

Happy Valley Farm supplies Goldhill Organics with meat and eggs, and was familiar with what was required for full traceability of its produce when Goldhill approached it about the FollowThisFood initiative.

“Farmers are becoming more concerned about consumer perception of their produce, but because we are registered with the Pasture for Life Association, we are used to people wanting to know where their produce is from,” said farm secretary and administrator, Elaine Baker.

“Buyers are becoming more aware of the origins of their produce, and are beginning to perceive cheap meat as cheap rubbish, and so farmers need to be more aware too.

“Apps like FollowThisFood will become more valuable and farmers do need to look to the future in terms of traceability and consumer perceptions.

“When an animal is born on the farm I get the relevant details and load them on to Farmplan which links with all the traceability apps we use.”

Details include breeding, birth weight, and birthing information.

When an animal is sent to the abattoir it is weighed and carcass weight and conformation is sent back to the farm.

“It’s quite a simple system, but does mean a little bit more paperwork. 

“Because we are a pedigree herd, we get customers who come into the shop and name a specific animal when giving feedback, and this allows us to follow the desirable genetics of our herd much more closely.”