Just tell me what you want!
How many times has that been uttered in an argument where the outcome is unclear, and a clear-cut victory may be nowhere in sight? U.S. pork producers often find themselves at odds with consumers on what kind of product they want, and how they want that produced.
Producers have been told that consumers want their pork to come from “happy” pigs, from pigs that are cared for in the best manner, even dictating that sows not be placed in gestation crates. Some consumers even feel that “happy” pigs are those raised outside, to enjoy rooting around in the mud.
Producers also want “happy” pigs, but pigs raised in the best possible conditions that 21st-century technology allows.
But when it gets down to it, what do consumers really, really want in their food production? Or more plainly, do they want to know how their food is being produced?
A recent study by Jayson Lusk and Eryn Bell of Purdue University and Bailey Norwood of Oklahoma State University asked 1,000 Oklahomans for their take on how livestock is raised, and how much that concerns them as consumers. Respondents were asked simple questions, and 81% stated that they trust farmers and believe the “farmers know best when it comes to raising animals.”
Seventy-eight percent also felt there are more important issues to worry about than knowing how their pork is being raised. Some respondents (38%) indicated that they might feel guilty about eating pork if they did see how the hogs were raised on the farm.
As we in the swine industry get bent out of shape about the latest demands consumers want to put on our production practices, let’s keep in mind there are consumers out there who just want wholesome, tasty pork on their plates.
Also keep in mind that there are consumers who trust that you know what you are doing in your barns, and how you care for your livestock is what’s best for the animal and for your bottom line.
One survey of patting farmers on the back is no reason to relax. Don’t begin to cut corners on animal care, because someone is always watching for a misstep.
It’s also not a time to let up on telling your story. As this survey shows, consumers trust farmers. So take that trust and run with it. Keep telling your stories — how you do things, why you do things — show them how much you care.
If you play a good offense, you won’t have to pull out the defense.