A core value of crypto evangelism is the concept of decentralization—and how that plays out in the beef industry and the economy in general.
- Bitcoin is a decentralized currency, meaning there is no central apparatus holding up the system—only individual node computers that keep records of peer-to-peer transactions on the blockchain.
- Decentralization is one of the primary appeals of crypto, unlike recognized currencies, which are generally tied to a central bank and which inflate in value over time.
- Thousands of crypto initiatives and firms are arising to take advantage of decentralization and ideally use crypto to push for the betterment of humanity.
- The Beef Initiative is one such organization—which aims to decentralize access to food in an effort to allow ranchers to sell quality healthful food directly to customers.
Why It’s Important
When Bitcoin was launched in January 2009, it began the cryptocurrency revolution that has spread worldwide and changed financial systems. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the world economy faced an inflection point. The government bailed out banks, and figures involved in the bubbles that sparked the great recession were met with minimal consequences.
Consumers responded to the aftermath in various ways. A small portion of the population joined anti-capitalist groups like Occupy Wall Street. Another portion voiced concerns that the centralization of the government created too much corruption—Bitcoin emerged from this group.
Bitcoin created an anonymous market without checks on fraud or regulation that could function without federal oversight. For this reason, many of Bitcoin’s earliest users were criminals—drug dealers like Silk Road, a dark-web drug-trafficking marketplace taken down in 2013 that only accepted payments in crypto.
A market with no middlemen or managing authorities creates dangers, but it also creates opportunities. Bitcoin is very useful in countries with unstable currencies and remains isolated from banking failures. Decentralization can open new markets and allow businesses to engage without excessive corporate interference or aggressive federal oversight.
Decentralizing The Food Industry
The Beef Initiative is a West Texas–based operation that works under the principle of decentralization. It is run by Texas Slim, a former research analyst who has spent the last four years building a free digital marketplace storefront that allows cattle ranchers to sell their food products online directly. He built it up through word of mouth and a grassroots effort to change how people consume food.
In the face of an evolving global economy and supply chain, Slim advocates “food intelligence,” which he defines as a greater knowledge of who grows, processes, and delivers food to your plate—decentralizing the process.
Texas Slim doesn’t necessarily argue against the right of corporations to do what they’re doing, more so against the tendency for corporations to grow at the expense of quality and local economies. As he notes, the meat industry used to be handled on a county level with local butcheries—the entire U.S. meat processing industry is now handled by a few large enterprises.
Monocropping, chemical systems, and industrial production have centralized the food industry and increased its size globally. While this has meant that food production has never been more plentiful, it also means that people have less an understanding of where their food comes from and if it is healthful. As Americans face rising obesity, heart health, and metabolic issues, it becomes more important to understand that food is more complex than the label on the box, which Slim alleges has been damaged by the food industry’s processes.
The Beef Initiative argues that decentralization offers a solution to declining food quality, creating more jobs for local farmers in the process. It gives greater options for ranchers and producers to have a presence online without having to sell exclusively with industrial butchers, encourages building relationships between consumers and farmers, and helps the end consumer learn more about safe food production and choices.
“I say with full sincerity and humility that you ought to shake your local rancher’s hand. Ask him to reeducate me on how you do what you do. That’s a lifestyle change, and it builds a new consumption model based on relationships, obligation, and accountability,” says Slim. “We’re about education, proof-of-work, and decentralization.”
An Alternative Perspective
The decentralized nature of the currency has drawn heavy criticism from politicians and opponents of cryptocurrency, who argue that the system is too open to abuse, fraud, crime, and risky behavior. The collapse of the crypto exchange FTX was arguably caused by a lack of regulation on the company’s internal operations.
Critics of crypto have similar gripes with banks—namely that both systems allow for abuses and high-risk engagement to happen in underregulated markets. As Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) says, “Are our memories so short that we learned nothing from the 2008 Wall Street crash? Have we learned nothing from the savings-and-loan disaster of the early 1990s or the thievery of Wells Fargo… or the dishonesty of Equifax or the accounting fraud of Enron?”
Fraud has also been a leading concern for critics of cryptocurrency. In 2021, crypto investors suffered $10.5 billion in losses. The White House laid out its critique of the crypto economy with fraud concerns last year. Almost every major government organization has called for a crackdown on crypto, including the Department of Justice, the SEC, the Federal Reserve, and Congress.
In Defense of Bitcoin
Advocates defend that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies still have more positives than negatives. David Zell, the co-executive director of the Bitcoin Policy Institute, tells Leaders Media that Bitcoin is also a sounder cryptocurrency than the majority of its imitators, which are often direct and intentional Ponzi schemes.
“Bitcoin is sound money. It can’t be confiscated if you secure it, and many ranchers understand it better than the general public. It’s a peer-to-peer transaction. It doesn’t go through a banking system. It can’t be shut down. It has a store value. It isn’t affected by the gradual devaluation of the currency. It’s just new technology, and the general public doesn’t understand it yet,” says Slim.
There are always going to be drawbacks to every system. A centralized system has the benefit of control but suffers from corruption. A decentralized system can be anarchic but allows for greater freedom. What is best for the future depends on which system can prove its externalities are the least egregious.