Jean L Clavelle
Alright. I believe it is time to dust off the old soap box and step back on.
Many organizations reporters and marketing programs recently have expressed opinions about what is the “ideal” regarding animal production in Canada. “Better Beef” from A&W, the W5 report regarding egg layer operations, PETA, HSUS throw around ideas and words intended to pluck at the strings of the consumer’s heart to show that they are better, that they care, that they are not the enemy while big business – agriculture – is trying to simply make an extra buck. Phrases such as environmentally friendly, sustainable, humane, antibiotic free are tossed around like so much feed in a pig barn.
Although I group these organizations together, their underlining intent is often not the same. PETA and HSUS want to eliminate the use of animals altogether, A&W wants to drive sales, W5 well I’m not entirely sure why a “news” organization would publish such a one-sided sensationalized commentary other than to increase viewers. The common denominator is that they are all focused on currying the favour of society and the consumer at the expense of producers and livestock.
Deep down my dirty little secret is that I truly don’t have a problem with a company creating a marketing campaign that targets the needs and wants of the consumer or when a news article provides a balanced article detailing the pitfalls of a production system. Where I do draw the line is when an organization does not support the Canadian producers that are purchasing their product, the people that have reliably supplied them with a safe healthy food product for decades. For example the A&W campaign that openly sourced product from suppliers outside of Canada. I suspect that had the lines of communication been open, Canadian beef producers would have happily agreed to provide whatever beef product A&W requested. However to imply that the beef industry is not willing to adapt or evolve or cannot supply what is needed is simply erroneous.
Now, that brings me to the point of this story. Why are the lines of communication not open? Why are we not telling our story? Why are we not working with our consumers to identify new trends and supply that product?
I am at a loss as to why livestock agriculture is so afraid to seek out the needs and opinions of its consumers. Is it because we are afraid that we will not stand up under scrutiny? Is it because we are afraid we will have to eat humble pie and acknowledge maybe we might have to change? Agriculture by its very nature is the epitomy of adaption and evolution. This should be something we in livestock agriculture are excitedly engaged in!
So come on agriculture. Step up. Let’s figure out what consumers and society wants. If that means seeking out consumer’s opinions, and asking questions well then lets get asking! If that means changing then we may just have to change to meet their needs. I fear that if we do not, we (and therefore animals and society in general) are going to lose out because the misguided and misinformed may force us to go down the wrong path.