The pork industry is facing an identity crisis. Animal welfare activists are defining the pork industry in terms that advance their own personal agendas. Day by day they try their level best to destroy the pork industry’s reputation. And day by day the message from activists erode producers’ image. Unfortunately, it is often the only voice that consumers hear.
Efforts of animal rights activists to ban gestation-sow crates will continue to expand as the groups extend their reach with bigger budgets and bigger staffs. The activists are in it for the long run according to Steve Kopperud, senior vice president, Policy Directions, Inc. They’ve already found a sympathetic voter base in Arizona and Florida to ban gestation-sow crates there. Efforts are underway in California to generate voter support, and Colorado is said to be the next battleground.
State by state, activists aim to impede production and thereby increase the price of pork for everyone. With all the controversy, more than one producer has asked, “who are we, anyway?” It is time for producers to define who they are, and to speak out to U.S. consumers Kopperud believes.
Pork producers need to start by illustrating to consumers that they are highly capable farmers who help provide the world’s most popular meat protein at an affordable price. They must be consistent and uncompromising in delivering the message that they are a successful group of responsible individuals that can be depended upon to produce a safe, wholesome and abundant food supply.
The message must be told to parents, teachers, FFA leaders, students, ethnic groups, retirees and teenagers, and it must be told often. Consumers need to get an accurate picture instead of one falsely portrayed by those who would have the world choose a spinach sandwich over one of ham.
Pork producers need leaders who can represent the facts on their behalf to law-makers who too often listen first to the growing din from activists. Producers also must determine as a group what production will look like 10 years from now and quickly implement the skills, practices, equipment, technology and resources needed to get there.
It will take resolve, commitment, integrity and leadership to succeed.