Editor’s Note: Some issues just never go away, and this is one of them. In the May 1981 issue of the Pork Producers Reference (the precursor to PORK Network), Washington editor Larry Waterfield wrote the article, “Assault on American diet may haunt industry future.” Little did he know the topic would still be relevant in 2017! There are lots of interesting – and surprising insights, and seen in these excerpts.

The problems facing the pork industry, like those facing most industries, can be divided into two broad categories: the problems within the industry itself, and those outside the industry, over which the industry has limited control.

Low pork prices, overproduction, funds for promotion are all internal problems. The industry itself can collectively have some impact in these areas, if producers choose to do so.

But the problems outside the industry – those problems that impact on the industry – can be even more troubling because the ability of pork producers to change things is more limited. The nitrite issue, government regulation, antibiotics all come to mind.

"The 'outside' issue that may haunt the pork industry more than any other in the future is what may be called the assault on the American diet."

There is an anti-meat bias building in this country. It is being fueled by a whole series of things, any one of which seems relatively simple to refute or answer. But taken together, they create a massive frontal assault on meat consumption.

Let’s spell out some things:

·         There’s the seemingly endless stream of articles, studies, reports and diet plans that for one reason or another urge people to reduce meat intake.

·         There’s the mistaken notion adopted by many that in feeding livestock, we somehow rob the world of badly needed food. The simplistic message here is, “if you’d stop eating so much meat, starving people would have the food they need.”

·         There’s the attack on food additives that causes people to shy away from processed meats and cured items.

·         There’s the budding “Animal Rights Movement” that again plays on public guilt feelings.

A person who dismisses all this as some “plot” by vegetarians or food faddists would be making a terrible mistake. There are relatively few true vegetarians and there will always be a hard core of food faddists who are convinced that happiness and health can only be found in sesame seeds or wheat germ.

“When was the last time you heard anybody who wasn’t connected with the meat industry say something good about meat consumption?”

John Saunders, president of the National Pork Producers Council, addressed these issues recently in testimony before the U.S. Senate. He said, “Research on food safety and nutrition can give us information we need to deal with consumer issues. The diet-heart controversy isn’t going to go away unless more facts can be established. We need also to resolve issues of food contamination and spoilage, the nitrite problem and the question of toxic chemicals in food.”

“The pork industry runs the risk of fighting the endless little brush fires while in the meantime, the house burns down.”

The broad assault on meat consumption that is coming from so many quarters is bound to have an effect on the public at large.

And make no mistake about one thing: food retailers are quick to pick up on changing public attitudes. They will retail whatever they think the public will buy. And if the public wants to buy less meat and meat substitutes or imitation meats, the retailers will give them what they want.