We asked PorkNetwork visitors to tell us how the industry can help consumers become better educated about best-management practices, and more than 280 of you voted. Seventy-eight percent of respondents thought producers should initiate a dialogue with representatives of the Humane Society of the United States to find common ground, but Wanda from Minnesota believes the poll results were weighted by members of the activist group, and I am prone to agree.

Based on my experience, many of those involved in activist groups have their positions firmly established. No matter how meaningful the discussion, nor how valid the science, nor how compelling your own first-hand involvement in the industry, nothing will change their minds. Why would it? It’s contrary to their mission. 

On the other hand, Matt from North Carolina writes: “I don’t see why they wouldn’t meet with HSUS. (It) is here and dictating all kinds changes. The two sides may disagree on everything, but you never know if you don’t try.”

This approach sounds good in theory, but for communication to be meaningful, both sides need to trust each other. Because of previous actions, motives and rhetoric, I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

The National Pork Board has been building relationships with food suppliers and retailers to help them put issues in perspective, and this initiative is making important inroads. They recognize the value of research and are doing a better job of considering both sides of the sow-housing issue.

The industry is also doing an excellent job of reaching out directly to consumers through its advertising and marketing efforts. I especially appreciated the comments made by Kim from Ohio, who wrote, “As a consumer, I want to hear it right from the horse’s mouth (meaning producers). I understand HSUS and meat producers will never be on the same ground but it is OK to disagree and offer choices to all consumers. Don’t back away from your true beliefs…many non-farmers will agree with you and understand your points.”

That’s so true. Research has shown that when consumers have the full story on sow-housing, they understand why gestation stalls are used. That’s not to say there’s a “perfect” system. The industry is ever-evolving and will continue to identify new and better ways of taking care of animals. But we also recognize the value and animal-welfare benefits to the practices being used today.

Thank you for your responses, and please take part in our next poll on pork prices this year.