When changing perceptions, make it personal

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Editor's note: We’re pleased to introduce Darrell Anderson as a new blog contributor. Anderson was raised on a livestock farm in southern Minnesota and graduated from South Dakota State University, where he was a member of the SDSU Livestock, Meats and Wool Judging Teams. He served as executive secretary of the American Yorkshire Club before being selected as the first CEO of the National Swine Registry, a position he held for 17 years. He has served in numerous leadership positions and has received countless awards. You’ll appreciate his thoughtful perspective on industry issues.

“I’m very concerned about fat content, so I always pick the pork chops that have the least amount of visible internal fat.”

“I thought all meat products today originate from animals that have been given hormones and high levels of antibiotics.”

Those were two of the statements I heard recently, as I had an interesting experience speaking to a group of ladies from our church on the subject of, “Selecting the Right Cut of Meat for Dinner.”

It was an eye-opening experience for me. The make-up of the group ranged in age from 28 years old to “afraid-to-ask” age. They represented a vast spectrum of backgrounds and educational levels. They included teachers, lawyers, stay at home moms and women from various other career fields.

After the first 30 minutes, I detected one common thread: They knew little about selecting the right cut of meat for their families. However, they were very aware of, and concerned about, the various industry issues that affect the safety and perception of our product in the marketplace.

During my tenure on the National Pork Producer’s Council board of directors, I watched our industry accomplish incredible advancements in reducing the fat content of pork. However, as we always seem to do in the genetic arena, we let the pendulum swing too far the opposite direction. I began to hear friends and acquaintances tell me about their negative eating experience from recent purchases of pork chops and other pork products.

I would periodically bring the subject up at board meetings, but others on the board didn’t seem to think it was a problem. Some said there still were too many “fat hogs” on the market; or that we can fix the issue of pigs being “too lean” with “pumping” or injection.

After spending an evening with these church ladies, I’m more convinced than ever that we have a lot of room for improvement in the pork-quality arena. Most of these women did not realize that selecting highly marbled pork chops with minimal external fat would yield a better eating experience.

However, they had heard about the perceived, (but inaccurate) excessive use of antibiotics, and asked a lot of questions about animal welfare issues. Since they all knew me, I believe they received my message well, and I was able to change their perceptions about our industry.

It just reminded me that we need to make it personal. The responsibility to tell the “true story” falls on each of us. It might be one-on-one conversations with acquaintances, or it might be in a meeting with a bunch of “church ladies.”

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Bruce Zierke    
Minnesota  |  May, 01, 2013 at 08:35 AM

Darrell, you always hit the mark with your insight and comments. The industry needs you. Thanks

Mike Lemmon    
Albion  |  May, 01, 2013 at 09:26 AM

Thanks Darrell--we need to have people with your perspective commenting on the industry. Individual points of view continue to narrow with single issue focus and little perspective of the bigger picture. Misinformation seems to dominate the internet and other information sources. Thanks for the effort to put facts and issues into perspective for this group!

Curt Zehr    
Washington, IL  |  May, 01, 2013 at 10:51 PM

Darrell, I enjoyed your comments and perspective on the issued of public perception and meat quality. Your experience with the ladies and their concerns is a perfect example of continuous misinformation being put out so often by people opposed to our industry that is becomes perceived truth by the uninformed consumer. Thanks for reminding us that we are not only producing pork, but also an eating experience for our customers.

Ronnie D    
May, 02, 2013 at 08:18 AM

Darrell, You're comments are spot on! Thanks for agreeing to do this blog, as Bruce said, "the industry needs you" -- and more like you! Not that you ever really left, but "WELCOME BACK" my Friend!

NSW, Australia  |  July, 29, 2013 at 04:16 AM

The right cut-of-meat, is no cut at all - be vegetarian, or better still vegan - for the sake of the planet, the animals, and your own personal health - ALL MEAT CONSUMED equals MURDER - get a conscious in the 21st century - humans no longer need to eat meat, dairy, or poultry products...


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