Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Saturday, January 01, 2011

All Changed, Changed Utterly

I just bought some eggs, and as I tried to choose among the different varieties (farm fresh! cage-free! free-range!), it occurred to me that this really is an area in which modern technology could provide some useful innovation. Instead of making vague, hard-to-assess claims about the treatment of the hens, egg producers could simply include a bar code sticker on each carton. The customer could take a picture with a smart phone, and then a picture of the actual hens, in their actual living conditions, could pop up on the screen. I don't mean a generic, never-changing picture of the farm - I mean some kind of automated picture that is updated daily (or whatever), from a fixed location, showing where the hens actually are.

Now, obviously appearances can be deceptive, and you would have to make sure that the egg producers are being honest with their photography. You would also want to include information beyond the bare pictures. And ironically it might be the most difficult for true free-range hens to be photographed (but if that's the case, you could take a shot of the nest where the eggs are laid to show its surroundings). But this kind of thing, which would once have been prohibitively expensive, should involve a large up-front cost and then modest ongoing expenses. It's all digital. People are definitely willing to pay a premium for humanely produced eggs, and people definitely can't trust the current labeling system, so it seems to me that this would provide a real benefit.