How do you feel about buying groceries at the big- box store or warehouse club? I have to admit I feel uneasy about buying “fresh” food at Target. It just doesn’t feel right to me. Because the store seems so far removed from a “real” grocery store, I feel like I’m getting a product that’s not really fresh, or is overly processed. In an ideal world, I’d grow all my own produce or buy it all at the farmers market from a local farmer. However, that is not always practical in my suburban life, so I find myself picking up apples at Target along with the cleaning supplies, or buying grapes along with the paper products at Costco.
So the other day I was washing some Costco grapes. (As an aside – did you ever wonder about that white residue on grapes? Turns out it’s a totally natural waxy substance, called bloom. It’s not pesticide residue – but wash your grapes anyway!) I noticed this little declaration on the grapes’ plastic box: “Trace me!” alongside a QR-type code. I tried to scan the code with my QR reader, but it didn’t work, so I went to the website listed on the box: www.HarvestMark.com, and typed in the 16-digit code on the grapes package. The website took me to a page about Anthony Farms, where I learned about the origin of my grapes, including the region in which they were grown. I would have liked information about when the grapes were harvested and packed, but that information was not available. Still, I was impressed with the intention behind this technology, which is to connect consumers back to the farms their food is coming from.
“Food traceability” is becoming a buzz-worthy issue, as it should. Eating safe, healthy food should be everyone’s concern. Knowing where your food is coming from, rather than just accepting the packaged food that shows up at your local store, is a step in the right direction. It’s a way for consumers to take ownership of what they are eating, even if they are unable to grow their own food. HarvestMark, especially when it becomes more widely adopted, will definitely be useful for me as a shopper. I’m concerned about food safety, and I like to buy produce grown in the U.S. if possible, so this is one way to feel more certain about the food I’m buying. Recalls and other issues are also reported on the HarvestMark site (although it should be pointed out that these are strictly voluntary by the food producer).
I also downloaded the HarvestMark app for my smartphone, which inludes a code reader that enables you scan groceries at the store to see their origin. Here’s where the fun comes in for the kids. Scanning and reading about where produce comes from would make a fun and educational “techy” activity for any home learner.
What do you think? Would you use technology like this to track your food? Do you care about food traceability? How do you deal with it?