Mushroom Traceability: From the Forest to the Plate
As consumers become increasingly distant from the origins of their food, we supported a project to bring them closer together: tracing the journey mushrooms take from the forest to the plate, telling their story along the way.
Over the last 20 years, forest certification has proven to be a very effective mechanism to promote sustainable management practices among forest owners and managers as well as among businesses in the timber value chain.
For consumers, however, forest certification remains a rather abstract concept as the main communication tool - the on-product label - provides only limited information. While the logo license number gives access to additional information allowing verification of the certified status of the manufacturer, it does little to assist the consumer in understanding the real benefits of certification. The story behind the product remains invisible.
Now, technology makes it possible to bring certification closer to the consumer. In the age of smart phones, consumers can discover which forest the product originated in and meet virtually with the forest owner and the people and businesses that handle the product along the value chain.
PEFC and Mushroom Traceability
Building on a 2011 ‘traceability project’ run by Ecotrust Canada, the PEFC 2012 Collaboration Fund supported a Mushroom Traceability project led by Cesefor, hosts of the Mediterranean Model Forest Network, to investigate market synergies between certification and traceability.
This project was the first of its kind for certified, non-wood forest products and was piloted using mushrooms harvested in Urbión Model Forest and Castilla y León, one of the largest PEFC-certified forest areas in Spain.
With a regional quality mark, the “Setas de Castilla y León”, already developed to enable the tracing of mushrooms grown in the region, this project investigated the potential compatibility between this mark and PEFC certification. Traceability and sustainability certification working together to give consumers assurance that the mushrooms they are eating come from sustainably managed local forests.
Looking further into the future, project partners will work to ensure that all forests in the Castilla y León region are PEFC-certified, enabling all the mushrooms they produce to carry the PEFC label.
Another highlight of this project was the creation of a web-based platform to enable consumers to access product-specific information that tells the story of the product. By simply scanning a barcode on a ticket with their phones, diners at restaurants in the region can now discover the journey the mushrooms on their plates took to get there, from the forest to the restaurant.
A future extension of the platform is envisaged in order to allow it to respond to already existing requests from producers of other forest products (cork, chestnuts) and from other regions (Italy, France) for traceability services.
Photos courtesy of Pilar Valbuena
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