China's Hottest Internet-Connected Device: Chickens

That's from the "Is the chicken local?" sketch from Portlandia, but it may as well be taking place in a Chinese market. Quartz reports that a Chinese tech company called ZhongAn Online has installed 100,000 meat chickens with GPS trackers and facial-recognition software, allowing consumers to track the birds they've preordered.

The GPS trackers, launched in China's Anhui province, provide information on birds' movement while the facial-recognition technology allows customers to observe the chickens from smartphones. Dubbed GoGo Chickens, the program plans to equip 23 million chickens with this technology within three years, according to the South China Morning Post.

The techy poultry is intended to help Chinese meat-eaters become more closely connected to their food system. Like yuppie Americans, urban Chinese consumers are becoming more concerned about the life cycles of the animals they eat.

"When you shop and see raw chicken [from us], you can simply check on your smartphone app to know its birthplace, what food it ate and how many steps it walked during its life," Chen Wei, chief executive officer for ZhongAn Tech, told the South China Morning Post.

Chen Wei cites Chinese concern over food safety as well as Portlandia-esque interest in agricultural systems as motivations for the program. He goes on to highlight the possibility of customers buying a baby chick and following it through its lifespan from hatchling to maturity.

Is that such a good idea? Chicken rearing, even the free-range, backyardy type, can be less than idyllic. Chicks get sick; chicks peck each other; chicks step in their own poop. Woe to the innocent customer who logs on hoping to see Chicken Little frolicking around a field and instead gets a lesson in the cold, hard reality of poultry farming. In terms of bringing urban consumers closer to their food systems, though, you get an A for effort, GoGoChicken.