Of all the sketches that sum up the ethos of Portlandia, perhaps none is so pure as the one where a couple ordering chicken at a restaurant demands to know every single detail about the animal’s life so they can feel better about eating it. In typical Portlandia fashion, it takes a turn for the absurd as the waitress produces a folder that includes the chicken’s name (Colin) and the couple takes a side trip to the farm he was raised on.
This outlandish take on the locavore trend might seem crazy but we probably shouldn’t be surprised to find out that it’s slightly less outlandish today than it was yesterday.
Via The Takeout, Quartz is reporting Chinese insurance tech company ZhongAn Online is creating a facial-recognition technology that people can use to track organically farmed chickens they have pre-purchased. Called “GoGo Chicken,” will also allow consumers to monitor their chicken’s movement in real-time with a GPS tracking bracelets attached to their legs.
While 100,000 birds are currently part of the program, the company hopes to increase it to include 23 million chickens within the next three years. The market for the eco-conscious eater who isn’t near a farm but wants to feel better about all those chicken breast sandwiches they’re eating is apparently bigger than you think.
The data that can apparently be collected and the connection that consumers will have with their chickens is in-depth. You’ll be able to track the movements of the free-range birds as well as monitor the food they’re eating. You’ll also be able to check in with your chicken on your smartphone at any given moment to see what it’s up to like it’s a pet…a pet you’re going to eventually eat.
One wonders if the program could end up having the opposite effect than what’s intended. Since these slow-grown birds will live for four to six months, that’s a lot of time for people to grow accustomed to their chickens, perhaps giving them personalities and even names. Perhaps when the time comes for slaughter, they’ll think twice about whether or not they actually want that meat to show up at their doorstep or not.
Of course, there’s a workaround for that. If you don’t want to actually watch your future chicken cutlet live its life, you can also opt to just find out what kind of life it led after the deed has been done. When shoppers go to the store and pick up a piece of chicken, they can find out via smartphone app where it was born, what kind of food it ate, and how many steps it walked in its life. It’s like a truly morbid version of Fitbit.
It remains to be seen how the company plans to handle unfortunate outcomes, such as chickens getting sick or dying. Perhaps if nothing else, the experience will reconnect city slickers with the farming experience and give them some much-needed perspective on where their food comes from, for better or worse.