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Key points from the 2017 National Animal Rights Conference

Do you ever wonder what campaign, movie or myth the animal rights movement will think of next? The Animal Agriculture Alliance has been tracking animal rights groups for more than 30 years to predict their next moves and keep farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and everyone in the animal agriculture industry ready for what may come in the future.

The Alliance sends representatives to the National Animal Rights Conference every year to gather insight on strategies and tactics of the animal rights movement. The Alliance shares a detailed report including quotes and observations with its members so they can stay informed. The 2017 event emphasized the ‘humane meat myth,’ clean meat innovations, expanding vegan options into the marketplace and a need for inclusivity within the movement.

Speakers urged attendees to avoid using the term ‘factory farming’ to encompass small farms in their rhetoric and breaking the law in the name of animal rights was deemed acceptable. These tactics are already in use as we see an uptick of activists breaking into farms of all sizes and stealing animals. Just in the last few months two different animal rights groups broke into farms in Colorado and Utah to “rescue” animals. Direct Action Everywhere trespassed and broke into a commercial pig farm while Denver Baby Animal Save walked onto a free-range chicken farm. The number-one goal of animal rights groups is to put farmers and ranchers out of business, no matter the size of the farm.

The Alliance team

Another theme at the conference was to continue pressuring restaurants, retailers and food-service companies to adopt certain policies for their supply chain – not to improve animal welfare, but to increase prices for both the farmer and the consumer. The focus has shifted from egg-laying hens to broiler chickens and the next target is will likely be aquaculture according to speakers at the conference. The Humane League is notorious for pressure campaigns and their executive director recommended “putting blood drips on their logo.”

The Alliance keeps detailed profiles on more than 80 animal rights groups for its members. Some of the most active animal rights groups include: The Humane League, Direct Action Everywhere, The Save Movement, The Humane Society of the United States, Mercy For Animals and Compassion Over Killing.

To find out more about the Animal Agriculture Alliance and the resources that are available, visit www.animalagalliance.org.


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Happy National Farmer’s Day!

Today is National Farmer’s Day! Sometimes we don’t think about all the people involved in producing that juicy burger as you chomp down on it, or the turkey that centers your well-decorated Thanksgiving table. And as I took the time to think of all the reasons I’m grateful for farmers, I realized most of them centered around the sacrifices farmers make in putting others – especially their livestock – before themselves. The pig farmer who trudges out to the barn in four feet of snow to fuel up the generator so his hogs don’t freeze while the power is out. The cattle rancher who moves his cow-calf herd to a higher field so an approaching hurricane won’t drown them in the flood waters. These are just a few stories of many, and they are all examples of the tough decisions farmers must make every day.

Thank them for their hard work.

Farmer_and_tractor_tilling_soilIt’s easy to forget, and we so often look at farming and say: “I bet I could do that, easy.”  But farming is not as simple as just feeding the pigs once a day, weeding the garden weekly, or collecting a few eggs every morning. Farming takes dedication, responsibility, care, and patience. Patience in dealing with animals, in waiting for the harvest to come in, and in pushing through the tough times that make you question your decision to ever start farming.

I had one of those instances this past spring, which started with a heifer who struggled to deliver a calf. I first noticed her in what looked to be the early stages of labor as I headed out of the driveway to run errands, figuring she’d have the calf on the ground by the time I returned. No such luck. I came back to see the calf’s hoof exposed and the heifer still pushing, looking exhausted. I jumped in our Kawasaki mule and raced to the field where she lay, carrying a set of calf chains and prepared to do as much as I could by myself. Sloshing over to my heifer, my boots filled with rainwater from the raging thunderstorm, because cows are nothing if not timely in their deliveries. My dad came out to help and together we spent about twenty minutes working to get the calf out, but to no avail. It eventually took three of us (after calling the vet) to pull the large bull calf, giving relief to the momma, who was so exhausted from the ordeal she just lay still and let us administer antibiotics and pain medication to help her heal over the next few days.

Afterwards, I sat on the couch at home, feeling frustrated with myself for not thoroughly doing my research on the bull we put with the cows the previous year, or for not having intervened sooner when I saw her in labor before I left. The large size of the calf had left my heifer paralyzed for a few hours (a relatively common occurrence during long labors when the calf is pushing on nerves in the hips). Though the vet assured me that the heifer would make a full recovery, I felt as though I had let myself down. I was a better cattlewoman than this, and needed to hold myself to a higher standard. In that moment it would have been easy to throw my hands up in defeat, and it was tempting, but remembering that the time I gave to get the calf out in turn helped save my heifer helped me see the positive side of my work.

Thank them for not giving up.

wyoming-188870_960_720One of my favorite stories that my dad tells from his younger days as a farmer is of a cow in a similar situation. After attempting to deliver a calf much too large for her frame, she was paralyzed in her rear legs; and unsure that the cow could make a full recovery, the vet advised my dad to euthanize her. My dad, unwilling to give up on the cow, drove out into the field twice a day with heavy duty straps on the forks of his tractor, and hoisted the cow up on all four feet for a period of about 20 minutes. He made sure she had water and feed at all times, and slowly encouraged her to stand on her own. He worked with this cow for over two weeks until she was fully able to walk on her own, when she went on to become fully readjusted back into the herd and continue producing calves for years afterwards.

Deciding when to take a chance in farming is always difficult, never knowing whether it will turn out in your favor or completely devastate production that year. Farmers make these decisions daily. Decisions that, whether or not we realize, impact us every day. Enjoying the bounty of corn in late summer? Thank the crop farmer who just spent weeks harvesting every day from sunup to sundown. Savoring that delicious Easter ham? Thank the hog producer who hooked up the generator for his barns during a power outage to ensure the pigs didn’t freeze in negative temperatures. A farmer’s sacrifice in these situations is to benefit consumers, and we are grateful for the care and time they give so selflessly.

Thank them for putting others – people and animals – before themselves.

photo-1506976785307-8732e854ad03In everything in life there is a give and take. However, farming contains some of the largest swings between positive and negative outcomes. There are few jobs in which circumstances out of one’s control, such as natural disasters, can completely devastate society on the vast scale that occurs in agriculture. Farming is difficult, and it is not always rewarding. Yet because of farming in America today, we can sleep knowing that we will always have access to an abundance of food. This is why it is important to remember to thank farmers every day, not only on National Farmer’s Day. So before you bite down on that BBQ sandwich, or post a picture of your delicious meal on Instagram, take a moment to thank a farmer and remember what they sacrificed to get you that food.


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Four Things I Didn’t Expect to Learn the First Time I Had to Stick My Hand up a Cow’s Butt

1. Animal agriculture is much more scientifically based than most general consumers realize. Believe it or not, there is scientific explanation for nearly every practice used in farming today (discounting my crazy uncle who swears that jumping backwards six times and howling at the moon will absolutely guarantee a bull calf). There is such a depth of scientific knowledge regarding animal agriculture at our fingertips. All it takes is a little curiosity and willingness discover new facts!

2. I never thought I’d be so excited to be in this particular position, but I’m so glad I am! I have learned so much through hands-on experience with cattle, whether that’s “sticking my hand up a cow’s butt” to check for pregnancy, or conducting a breeding soundness exam. Animal practices are completely fascinating, and I can’t wait to apply my knowledge to future careers and endeavors.

3. You can learn a lot from the back end of a cow. Besides quickly learning that cow poop stains (still haven’t figured out a good method to get it out of my clothes), being behind a cow tells you a lot about how that cow is feeling. Perhaps even more than being at the front end of the cow. You can understand many aspects of her body’s health by checking her manure, noticing her temperature, and any potentially abnormal fluids appearing. Taking the time to notice these indicators can really help you out.

4. Maybe we should all stick our hands up a cow’s butt some time. Okay, maybe we don’t all have to go that far. The general idea is that we could all learn a lot from getting a more hands-on experience with the animal agriculture industry. However, if you’re ever given the chance – at least have an open mind!

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A few of my cows on a snowy day. Photo by Erin McCarty

 

 

 


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From Small Farms to Feedlots: The Agriculture Industry Needs Us All

Growing up, I was an active member of the local 4-H Livestock Club, raising many species of livestock and showing them in local fairs as well as shows throughout the state. Though I lived on a small farm in which I was the only family member raising animals for show or consumption, I took a strong interest in the agriculture community in my area and did everything I could to actively engage with producers. I felt as though I had a clear understanding of modern day agriculture – at least in my area, which consisted mostly of smaller cow-calf operations.

straw-bales-2638678_960_720Then I went to college in southwest Virginia, an area rich in large-scale cow-calf farms with feedlots scattered between. I met other agriculture students who lived or worked on 10,000 plus head operations, or had grown up with three chicken houses in their backyard, and I was overwhelmed. I felt as though my experiences surely couldn’t compare to these individuals who had spent their entire lives working cattle through the chute weekly or waking up early on the weekends to take care of piglets. Little old me, who had come from a non-working farm and raised my very meager herd of purebred Angus cattle to a whopping 10 head, I certainly couldn’t give my opinion on farming in front of these other students. However, after spending time around individuals with varying degrees of experience, I found that everyone brought interesting insights to the table regardless of their background.

Don’t discount yourself due to lack of experience.

Experience isn’t everything in the agriculture world. Though previous knowledge certainly helps to understand the workings of agriculture production, lack of experience does not mean you are unable to have informed opinions about its practices. Even though I didn’t have the thorough background in production that some of my counterparts brought to the table, I still had something to contribute. Just as the person who grew up in the heart of a city with no hands-on experience working livestock had valid opinions to offer. Though some of us are more involved in the process, we all

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Me with some Virginia Tech friends attending the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Conference in 2016.

participate in the agriculture world and have something to share.

Never be afraid to speak up.

Even when you feel outnumbered by those who carry more experience than you: speak up! Share what you know! Ask that question to which you’ve been dying to get an answer! This is how we grow and learn from each other as a society. Growth in modern day agriculture comes about when everyone is an active participant in its conversations, and everyone who cares about the future of agriculture deserves to have a part in those discussions.

Learn from others.

If you are the person who grew up on a large scale operation, always have an open mind to others’ opinions, even though your experience may far exceed theirs. Additionally, if you did not grow up on a farm, listen to shared knowledge from those who had that exposure. Never pass up an opportunity to have an educational and potentially enlightening conversation with someone. Furthermore, always be respectful in your interactions with individuals of varying backgrounds, and remember to treat every conversation as an opportunity to learn and grow in your knowledge of agriculture.


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It’s More than an Industry

I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to have found an interest in animal agriculture; the work itself is great, but the people are even better. This summer I was able to attend the Ag Media Summit , which is a conference held for those involved in the agricultural communication field. I was again impressed by the kindness and sincerity of the people who work in the agriculture industry.

Everyone is Welcome

As a student, it is easy to be intimidated when meeting professionals who work in your field. We often forget that they are people too and once stood in the same place we did. For the first time, I attended a conference and did not feel like a student; I was immersed in professional conversations and introduced to mutual connections. I was in the presence of industry leaders while still being able to meet many like-minded students. I loved the atmosphere and felt welcome in every room I entered.

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It’s exhilarating to meet new people, especially when they have similar passions and understand why you get so excited about writing and social media. When you are a young professional just kick-starting your career or still finishing your degree, it is encouraging to have alumnus and communicators from across the nation take the time to speak with you about your goals. I can’t speak for other industries, but I know everyone in the agriculture sector is truly a large family wanting each other to succeed. I think that is something pretty special.

We Honor One Another

Since this was my first Ag Media Summit, I wasn’t familiar with who regularly attended or who had made the conference such a success for many consecutive years. So, when the room fell silent during a tribute to someone who had passed away and tears began to fall, all I could do was listen to a cherished man’s story and be thankful that such individuals exist. Even though I’d never met Don, just learning how he had impacted so many lives made me feel as though his memory would impact me.

Throughout the entire conference, we all honored one another. Everyone respected each other as unique, creative individuals and everyone wanted to learn from other people’s experiences. People laughed and shook hands; it was easy to make incredible new relationships. Multiple attendees, students and professionals alike, were awarded for their hard work in the agricultural communication world.

For three days, I interacted with people who write incredible news stories, create beautiful magazine covers and strategically plan the perfect marketing campaigns. Not once did I hear anything negative about someone else’s ideas or passions. Instead, individuals collaborated and sought new ideas. I can’t accurately describe how talented these communicators are or how thankful I am to have met them.

A Bright Future

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I think most of us can agree that the agriculture industry needs a voice now more than ever. Technology continues to improve, new studies are being conducted and consumers have questions about how their food is being raised. It was great to come together with others who work to share the story of agriculture, and I think it is safe to say that our stories will continue to be told.

For me personally, I’ve been inspired to continue pursuing my goals and not be afraid to tell my own story. Besides, every single person has valuable experiences to share. I really believe the story of agriculture will only get better, especially since the story isn’t always about crop genetics or animal husbandry. The stories being told are actually about the remarkable people who make this industry so strong. The agriculture industry isn’t an industry of working strangers; it’s an industry built on family values. I hope we never forget that.

 


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5 reasons why college students should do College Aggies Online!

Untitled design (16)Topanga McBride, a student at Kansas State University studying Ag Communications and Ag Economics and the 2016 individual winner for College Aggies Online shares why college students should sign up for this year’s program!

Back in June of 2016, I was sitting at my internship finding as many different agricultural organizations as I could. In my searching, I stumbled upon the Animal Agriculture Alliance and their College Aggies Online contest. Always one for a good newsletter, I signed up, not realizing I had just put my name in the hat for a 9-week challenge to tell my story. It didn’t hit me until I started getting emails and even a tweet from College Aggies Online saying they were glad I had signed up. I scrambled to figure out what I had just gotten myself into, to conclude that this was a great opportunity. One competition, a trip to the Animal Ag Alliance Summit, countless connections, and one scholarship later, I’m so glad I mistakenly signed up for the contest. If you’re still not sold, here’s five reasons to get yourself involved in the College Aggies Online contest.

1. Do it for the vine (or the followers).
Old reference, right idea. This contest allowed me to make all sorts of connections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I interacted with the hundreds of other college students in the contest, discussing strategy and learning each other’s experiences. On top of that, the contestants had a mentor each week who was a communicator in the industry we were focusing on. They gave us insight on their experience and advice both through presentations and personal conversations. Because of all this networking, I not only gained hundreds of followers and friends, but also valuable network connections as I pursue a career in the industry.

2. If you’re into strategy and competition, this contest is full of it.
There is not another competition that compares to College Aggies Online. Strategy is one of my top strengths and this competition gave me the opportunity to exercise it. The contest runs on a points system – whoever has the most points wins. While placing the top posts and entries is up to the judges, simply completing all the tasks is half of the battle. Each week, I’d scan over the score sheet to see who was leading and took the time to learn from their entries to understand what was successful. If you like some healthy competition, College Aggies Online has it.

3. Give your social media some purpose.
We all use our social media differently. This contest helped me understand how I wanted to use each platform with the audiences I already had. My tweets were no longer just about whatever funny hashtag was trending, my Instagram featured less pointless selfies, and my Facebook allowed me to feature stories of my friends instead of just me. I see my social media very differently, and continue to use these platforms more as a tool and less as an online journal and photo album.

4. Meet #AgChat celebrities in real life at Animal Ag Alliance Summit.
The top three finalists and a representative from the top club get to attend the Summit, wherever it may be. This was the first conference I went to where I recognized people all over the room because I’ve interacted with them on #AgChat, or read their blog. Everyone came from different industries and it was exciting to see poultry farmers and beef producers work together over the challenges that face them. I walked away from the Summit abuzz with all sorts of new information and a motivation to keep working towards my career in this industry.

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5. Agriculture needs more voices. It needs your voice.
You’ve heard before that agriculture is a small industry, an aging industry, a necessary industry, etc. You may not think you as a college student have something to offer. That’s where you’re wrong. We each have unique networks we are a part of and unique stories of our experiences in this industry. I can tell you a lot more about how a cow gets milked than I can tell you about row crops and the seasons. I have great reach in Northern Colorado with my environmentally-conscious peers, but I don’t have any connections to comfort food lovers in the South. For people outside of agriculture to feel comfortable with the food that they eat and the practices that make it possible, they need to be able to find a person in this industry they identify with. By telling your story, there is someone out there that will see part of themselves in you that they will never see in me. This contest trains you how to best tell your story in the most personal way possible to make the biggest impact.

If you’re still not convinced, reach out to the Animal Ag Alliance, another previous contestant, or myself. We all can help you understand if this contest is an opportunity for you. Hopefully you’ll get involved by choice instead of by accident, but I’m sure glad I did. Thank you for the opportunities and the experiences, Animal Ag Alliance. I cannot wait to see what stories are shared this coming fall.


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Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg!

Mr. Zuckerberg,

As champions for farmers and ranchers, we know sharing the stories of the people and families who raise and produce our food is key to helping consumers better understand where their food comes from. We are excited to see you joining us as you visit farm families across the country and share their stories on Facebook.

As you know, there is a lot of misinformation being shared online about food and agriculture – often times by people generations removed from agriculture. We appreciate you sharing how much hard work, dedication and passion farmers and ranchers have for raising livestock while feeding families everywhere.

The Alliance is no stranger to receiving negative comments from groups that are opposed to animal agriculture as we work to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. We’ve noticed that you are now receiving some of the same comments on your posts and standing strong in the face of their tactics is not always easy. The Alliance team and the farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, animal health companies and other farm organizations we represent want you to know how much your recognition and appreciation of the people who grow and raise our food means to each of us.

We sincerely thank you for being a supportive advocate of the agriculture community!

 

 


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‘What The Health’ claims get debunked

Some determined activists will say almost anything to convince people to go vegan. One example of this is “What The Health,” a film you might have seen while scrolling through Netflix. If you’ve watched the movie, it may have left you feeling confused about the nutritional value of meat, milk, poultry and eggs.

Several scientists, dietitians and agriculture advocates have started speaking out against the film and helping viewers find factual information to make decisions about their diets. Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise analyzed each health claim made in the film and concluded that 96 percent were bogus and not based on sound science. Dr. Harriet Hall, a retired family physician says the film “cherry-picks scientific studies, exaggerates, makes claims that are untrue, relies on testimonials and interviews with questionable “experts,” and fails to put the evidence into perspective.”

Here are some of the main claims from the film debunked:

Red and processed meats cause cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) report that brought this controversy to the forefront relied on a few weak studies and ignored numerous other studies that have affirmed the nutritional benefits of consuming meat. Since the report was released, the WHO said “meat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet.”

A 2015 meta-analysis of 27 studies concluded that the link between cancer and red meat consumption is actually pretty weak. In another 2015 meta-analysis of 19 studies, scientists concluded “the results from our analyses do not support an association between red meat or processed consumption and prostate cancer.”

Sodium nitrite, a salt used to cure meats like sausage, bacon and ham is often brought to the table when discussing cancer and processed meat; but the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is considered the “gold standard” in determining whether substances cause cancer, completed a multi-year study that found nitrite was not associated with cancer. NTP maintains a list of chemicals found to be carcinogenic. Sodium nitrite is not on that list.

Sugar and carbohydrates don’t cause diabetes, instead it is caused by eating meat

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Starchy foods can be a part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Being overweight does increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes. The ADA recommends that people should avoid intake a sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes.

A 2016 study and meta-analysis regarding sugar and diabetes concluded, “habitual consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

Eating one egg is the same as smoking five cigarettes

Yes, they actually made this outrageous claim. There’s no way an egg has the same health effects as smoking cigarettes. Eggs are packed with 6 grams of protein, 14 essential nutrients (including choline and vitamin D) and they’re only 70 calories each – how can you beat that combo?!

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three healthy eating patterns…all of which include eggs. According to a 2015 peer reviewed study about the effects of egg and egg-derived foods on human health, “eggs represent a very important food source, especially for some populations such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, convalescents and people who are sports training.”

Pregnant women who eat meat, milk and eggs are introducing toxins to their child

Wrong again. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a pregnant woman should eat lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas to obtain the daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy.  A 2013 study states pregnant women “should eat foods that contain adequate amounts of choline” and milk, meat and eggs just happen to be choline-rich! Now you may say – pregnant women can skip meat, milk and eggs if they take a prenatal vitamin, right? Nope. The study also states that “prenatal vitamin supplements do not contain an adequate source of choline.”

Milk contains pus

Let’s put this misinformation, frequently used to try to scare you out of drinking milk, to rest. Here’s an awesome explanation from Carrie Mess, a Wisconsin dairy farmer…

Somatic cell count (SCC) is a measurement of how many white blood cells are present in the milk. “White blood cells are the infection fighters in our body and so an elevated white blood cell presence or on a dairy farm an elevated SCC is a signal that there may be an infection that the cow is fighting. Dairy farmers are paid more money for milk that has a low SCC, if our cell count raises above normal levels they will dock the amount we get paid for our milk, if it raises even higher they stop taking our milk and we can’t sell it. So not only do we not want our cows to be sick, it would cost us a lot of money and could cost us our farms if we were to ignore a high SCC. While the current US regulation is that milk must have a cell count under 750, dairy coops and companies generally require under 400 and most dairy farms aim for a SCC under 200. So, does this mean that we are allowing some pus into your milk? No. All milk is going to have some white blood cells in it, that’s the nature of a product that comes from an animal, cells happen.”

For these and more claims from the film debunked, check out this resource from the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The Alliance also provides detailed reports to its members on popular books and movies pushed by animal rights activists along with films that are positive towards farmers and ranchers.

This film is tagged as a “documentary,” but I would argue it should be categorized as a comedy because it has so many absurd allegations about food and agriculture.

As always, if you have concerns about your health or the foods you eat, you should consult your doctor!


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Understanding Consumers’ Relationship with Food

Dr. Tamika Sims, director of food technology communications at The International Food Information Council shares key findings from their recent Food and Health Survey.

The majority of today’s population is several generations removed from agriculture and are often susceptible to believing myths and misinformation about how their food is produced. To help bridge the communication gap between farm and fork, it is key to first understand consumers’ relationship with food. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2017 Food and Health Survey marked the 12th installment of this signature research.  This year’s survey shed light on the way consumers think about and perceive food and health, providing deep insights into food habits and purchase drivers. It investigated important issues regarding consumer confusion, the food information landscape, heath and diet, food components, food production, sustainability, and food safety. The online survey included 1,002 Americans from ages 18 to 80 and was nationally representative.

Sustainability Taking a Top Spot for More than Half of Consumers

Sustainability is a broad term, and can mean many different things to different people. Over half of Americans stated that the importance of food being produced in a sustainable way was either “very important” or “somewhat important.” To understand what consumers valued, specific to sustainability, the Food and Health survey found that reducing the amount of pesticides used to produce food, conserving the natural habitat, and conserving farmland over multiple generations were the top three reasons. Fewer consumers highlighted that the food supply was a consideration in their understanding of sustainability.

Consumers and Industry Understand Sustainability Differently

The intriguing narrative presented by these data show that the features of sustainability that consumers found least important are the aspects that the food industry is more focused on. For example, the food industry is committed to producing more food with less natural resources and has developed pledges to reduce the use of greenhouse gas emissions, and solid waste created from their products.

Confidence in Food Supply Down Slightly

The Food and Health Survey also investigated consumer trust and confidence in the food supply. More than 50% of Americans stated that they were “somewhat confident” or ”very confident” in the safety of the U.S. food supply, down slightly from last year’s survey.

Consumers were also asked what they considered to be the most important food safety issues today. Data demonstrated that foodborne illness from bacteria was the most important food safety issue, with about 25% of Americans highlighting this concern. Further, carcinogens and cancer-causing chemicals in food were ranked second on the list of food safety issues, with significantly more consumers citing this as their top concern compared last year.

Confidence in Animal Products High after Knowledge of FDA Rule

Animal antibiotics got a spotlight question this year to follow-up from the 2016 Survey. With the new FDA antibiotic rule that recently came into effect, the survey aimed to gain knowledge into changing consumer feelings towards animal products. This rule prohibits the use of growth-promotion antibiotics and states that antibiotic issuance must include veterinary oversight for the administration of certain drugs. These tactics are aimed to limit antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans. The Food and Health Survey examined if this rule altered consumer confidence in purchasing animal products as well as confidence in veterinarians and farmers using antibiotics responsibly. The survey found that just below 50% of consumers were at least “somewhat more confident” in purchasing animal products and responsible use of antibiotics by farmers and veterinarians.

If you wish to learn more insights from our survey, please follow the link below to the full report.

2017 Food and Health Survey


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3 Tips for Consumer Engagement this Fair Season

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Summer is upon us and while I was growing up, that only meant one thing: county fair season is here! Once school was out in early June, I spent each summer morning and afternoon in the barn with my family doing chores and preparing for the county fair. This included many hours spent washing my livestock, walking them around a practice show ring, watching the news and reading the paper to learn about what was happening in the industry and organizing my tack to get ready for the fair.

In addition to showing my livestock, some of the most memorable moments were spent hanging out with my friends in the barn. Every once in a while, though, somebody would pass through the barns and make a comment about how farmers do not care for their animals or another hurtful claim. Whether these individuals were uninformed consumers or animal activists trying to disrupt the fair, it was important to know how to respond. Recently, animal extremists have been targeting agriculture fairs as a way to protest animal agriculture, so I want to take this opportunity to share some suggestions for handling these types of situations.

1 – Communicate Respectfully
I’m sure that those of us who grew up showing livestock can recall a handful of conversations with consumers walking through the barn. Some of those conversations were comical – like the time a woman declared that my friend’s goats were ‘adorable!’ when in fact, she was looking at four sheep. Or when a man and his son asked if I was spraying chemicals on my pig when actually I was using a spray bottle filled with water to keep my pigs cool in the summer heat. While it is easy to laugh at these absurd questions and remarks, we should use them as chances to educate. Instead of responding with an eye roll, take the opportunity to engage with the fair-goer and share a positive story of how you care for your animals.

If animal extremists confront you, seek a fair manager or other designated spokesperson to help. Having a designated spokesperson to answer questions and share key messages with the activists will alleviate pressure on the youth exhibitors and the exhibitors will  also learn from the experience.

2 – Show You Care
Just as the old saying goes: they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Often those walking through the livestock barns are interested in learning more about animals and how they are raised. In order to be seen as a trustworthy source, show fair-goers you care by telling them how you care for your animals. It can be easy to complete your daily chore routine with nothing more than a glance in the fair-goers’ direction. Instead, chore time could be a great opportunity to explain what ingredients are in the feed that your animal eats, and how you prepare your animal for the fair.

3- Tell Them Why
NutrientsInMeatIt is no secret that livestock exhibitors often get asked, “Are you really going to eat that animal after the fair?!” or “Why do you show your animal?” Let fair-goers know that you were aware when you decided to participate in the livestock project that your animal would become an important part of the food supply. Meat is an important source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals that are not found in plant-based foods. Be sure to remind them that because of farmers, we have food, fuel and fiber that make our day-to-day lives possible.

For those that question why you participate in livestock shows, share with them what you have learned. For me, it was a tremendous amount of responsibility that came with raising animals and caring for them daily, often putting their needs before my own. I made lasting friendships with my fair friends who shared my values and passion for animal agriculture. Showing livestock also meant that I was able to contribute to the food chain by raising a nutritious product that would provide food for a family’s table. And more than anything, showing livestock allowed me to spend time with my family in a way that no other activity could.

So next time a family walks through the barn at your county fair, take the time to answer their questions and tell them about your project – engage with them and show them how you care for your animal. Always be sure to treat fair-goers with respect so they learn to understand, appreciate and respect our livelihood in the animal agriculture industry.

For more fair and exposition security and engagement tips, contact the Animal Agriculture Alliance at hthompson@animalagalliance.org or call 703-562-5160.