"I don't see that there has ever been a better time for animal agriculture," said Nancy Kruse, President of The Kruse Company, while addressing attendees at the 13th annual Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. "Think about it," said Kruse. "Meatless Monday, has been unsuccessful because students like to have choices. Butter consumption has come back up 24% in the past decade. Egg dishes and fried chicken are 'real food' and they are booming. Butchers have become rock stars."
That's all great news for animal agriculture; for the producers that raise animals for food. However, the promising news for innovators in the food industry was not to be overshadowed by some of the challenges that we still face, namely the difficulties that agriculture has in communicating on issues that matter to millennial, and other, consumers.
One of the issues discussed throughout the Summit was about agriculture's impact on the environment. The key to sustainability, according to Jason Clay, of the World Wildlife Fund U.S., is optimization.
"Set up programs to help farmers achieve sustainability," said Clay. "Switch from a practice based approach; it isn't about changing your practices, it's about the result."
Time and again, panelists grappled with the complex issues and how to communicate all the efforts already underway in terms of sustainability and other industry-wide improvement efforts.
"The way to engage millennials is to be optomistic about what we're doing," said Aidan Connolly, of Alltech, another panelist on the "Defining Sustainability" panel. "We are feeding people, feeding the world. Engage them [consumers] in that conversation."
Similarly, panelists discussing the "Antibiotics Endgame" panel repeatedly stated that the discussion surrounding antibiotics is about building trust. ‘
"When we look at what is the endgame in antibiotics, it is an opportunity to build stakeholder and consumer trust," said Joe Forsthoffer of Perdue Farms. "When I was growing up it was Pillsbury and Tang. Mom had a lovely garden and I wanted goop in a tube. Now, consumers are looking for a deeper connection to their food."
"It's about providing options. Our Antibiotic-free product came from our customer base wanting it," said John Stika, President of Certified Angus Beef. "There's a need for choice and a need for transparency--going forward, how can our industry respond to those choices?"
Many panelists, when discussing hot-button issues, built upon themes presented by the morning sessions' presenters.