Ag Forecast: Striking a balance in animal production

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The need for agriculture to maintain the public's support of animal production practices while at the same time provide enough food for the world will be examined by experts at Purdue University and the USDA.

"Balancing Act: Meeting the Growing Demands for Food, Enhanced Animal Well-being and Consumer Trust"  will be the topic of discussion Feb. 2 during the annual Ag Forecast, which precedes the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association's annual Fish Fry at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. The Ag Forecast will be in the Grand Hall starting at 9:30 a.m. EST. It is free and open to the public.

"Far too often discussions about animal well-being are political, and they can erode quickly," said Candace Croney, a Purdue University associate professor of animal sciences who will lead the panel's discussion. "If we're not objective in our discussions, then we polarize ourselves by pulling people farther apart. We want to help clarify what the conversation should be so that all sides are not just competing for sound bites on the newscasts."

The public's increasing desire to know where their food comes from and how it is produced must be part of that discussion, Croney said. She added, however, that pressure from the public should not be the sole or primary impetus for changes in production practices.  "Doing the right thing should be the driving factor for our practices and policies," she said.

"I reject the notion that we can't do right by both animals and people," she says in an article in the current edition of Purdue Agricultures magazine. The article, which explores how Purdue is researching issues connected to animal well-being, is at https://ag.purdue.edu/agricultures/Pages/Dec2012/Taking-on-a-Leadership-Role.aspx.

Other panelists are Nicole Olynk Widmar, assistant professor of agricultural economics, also at Purdue, and Jeremy Marchant-Forde, research animal scientist in the Purdue-based Livestock Behavior Research Unit of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

Olynk Widmar will present research on concerns that consumers say they have  about animal well-being. Marchant-Forde will talk about what makes animal welfare issues, particularly sow housing, so complicated and often difficult to resolve.

The Fish Fry will follow the Ag Forecast at 11:30 a.m. in the nearby Marsh Blue Ribbon Pavilion, with featured speaker Steve Inskeep, National Public Radio "Morning Edition" host. He is a native of Carmel, Ind.

Inskeep will speak on the theme of "Every Second Counts," in which he will tell of his experiences in broadcast production as a metaphor for larger lessons in life. Information on Fish Fry tickets, parking permits and on-site child care is available at http://www.ag.purdue.edu/agalumni or by calling the agricultural alumni office at 765-494-8593. Tickets are $25 each.



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