Transparency, Trust Keys to Meat DemandTue, 07 Jan 2014 12:03:27 CST
In between cattle in the pasture and the dinner plate, there are some steps in beef production that can be uncomfortable to talk about. The American Meat Institute's Senior Vice President Janet Riley says they shouldn't be left out of the conversation, though.
"There's research to show that if you give people the correct information up front, even if it's on a subject that's a little difficult to talk about like slaughter, you can inoculate them against bad information. Because when they see an undercover video, if they've never seen slaughter done right, they have no basis on which to evaluate that activist's video. So, showing them facts ahead of time will help them think more critically."
She spoke at the Feeding Quality Forum in 2013 in Omaha, Neb., urging cattlemen to get involved and share their stories with neighbors and friends.
"I think there's a real trend. People want to know the source of their food. They want the information. The problem is trust. They must trust the source of information and I think that calls for very personal conversations."
How producers approach the subject is important, too. People are passionate about their food choices and one must listen first to hear their point of view.
"A lot of time their concerns come from confusion," Riley says. "They're convinced, for example, that cattle that are fed corn are always fed corn and only fed corn or that cattle spend their entire lives in a feedlot. So we have to not dismiss them and not make them feel stupid for thinking that way, we just need to give them the benefit of our information."
Riley says hitting the web is vital to educating the next wave of consumers. Ninety-six percent of Generation "Y" belongs to some type of social media network.
"Social media is critically important. As a mother of two teenagers I see the changes. I went to journalism school at a time before we even had computers. I still had a manual typewriter and that was just in the 80s and now I see kids who are all equipped with iPhones and are tweeting and checking Facebook and that's the source of their information."
A challenge? Yes. A growing opportunity? "Certainly," Riley says.
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