- UPS delivered blockchain-verified beef from the U.S. to Japan in collaboration with tech startup HerdX. Tracking beef through the supply chain in this way could help assure quality and verify provenance, according to a press release from UPS. Japan is the top export market for American beef.
- The beef traveled from Kansas to a steakhouse in Japan in temperature-controlled UPS packaging with sensors to record the temperature. UPS developed a "customized integrated visibility tool" to track this HerdX shipment. Menus at the steakhouse featured QR codes making the tracking information visible to diners.
- HerdX is a technology startup producing digital tools for ranchers including smart tags that monitor animal health as well as creating a digital identity to track them through the supply chain. The company previously partnered with Brazilian-style steakhouse Fogo de Chão to track U.S. beef from the ranch to the chain's domestic restaurants via blockchain.
UPS has seen value in blockchain technology for years. The carrier joined the Blockchain in Transportation Alliance (BiTA) in 2017. And last year it applied for a U.S. patent to use blockchain technology to track packages through multiple carriers globally. So the technology the company created for this partnership is not entirely new to the carrier.
What is new is the practical application and the fact that UPS created digital tools specifically for this partnership.
"Blockchain verification for international air freight shipments is complex and requires a great amount of expertise in customs and freight forwarding. Getting it right has implications for many industries, such as restaurants, food & beverage, and retail," said Romaine Seguin, president of UPS Global Freight Forwarding in a statement.
UPS technology, as described in earlier statements and the patent application, is intended to grease the gears at customs around the world. Seguin said she sees the HerdX partnership as a model for other joint efforts that could benefit UPS' international customers.
Food is a common target for early blockchain applications since provenance and production information is increasingly of interest to consumers and HerdX suggested the partnership will continue beyond this shipment.
"UPS Freight Forwarding and Logistics services more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. Our official international logistics partnership gives HerdX unprecedented scaling power, which in turn provides incredible expansion opportunities for the American cattle producer," said HerdX founder Ron Hicks.