Pork producers can make a difference in building an understanding and trust among U.S. consumers by starting a conversation. “It is a daily challenge as producers confront consumers’ changing attitudes regarding agricultural production,” says Chris Novak, chief executive officer, National Pork Board. “For so many Americans, what farmers do is still misunderstood. We must continue to spread our message to consumers about modern pork production.”
Novak points to the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a coalition of some 70 agricultural groups and businesses whose purpose is to advance a dialogue with consumers about modern agricultural production.
“People want to know more about their food, where it comes from, and how it is raised,” says Bill Zucker, a spokesperson for USFRA. “Pork producers are the most qualified people to speak to consumers about modern pork production.” For more, go to http://bit.ly/Lu9wa6.
According to USFRA research, consumers respect farmers and accept them as food experts; however, some of today’s production methods to raise and grow food foster concern. Zucker points out that consumers also are skeptical about family farms. “About 70 percent of consumers believe all farms are owned or controlled by corporations. So when we relay the message about a particular operation being a family farm, they don’t believe it,” he says.
The situation with consumer skepticism requires a new producer mindset. “We need to set the agenda for those who are concerned,” Zucker says. “Producers need to lead the discussion but not be confrontational.” An informative and reassuring voice that addresses concerns among consumers is the most effective way to get farmers’ messages to the public.
Conversation is a powerful tool and he suggests that it can be done with E-A-S-E, such as:
- Engage — Look for opportunities or connections to engage people in conversations about food production; the chance arises at community functions, the grocery store, social settings, church, clubs and sporting events.
- Acknowledge — When concerns are raised, acknowledge them, such as “I understand why you are concerned about that issue. As a matter of fact, so are we.”
- Share — Relay what practices you apply on your farm that address the expressed concern.
- Earn trust — Illustrate your intent on continuous improvement, as well as your accomplishments. Cite your Pork Quality Assurance Plus certification, your site assessment, farm upgrades or your nutrient- management plan.
For more information on spreading the message, check out USFRA online at usfraonline.org.