This year marks my 10th year as a blogger for BEEF, and in the last decade, one of my primary focuses — aside from sharing personal stories from my family’s ranch — has been identifying consumer trends and strategizing best ways for beef producers to remain part of the conversation.
What I’ve learned over the years is that to truly understand our consumer, we need to think as an urban shopper would and not from our vantage point as ranchers who spend our days working directly with land and livestock.
Yes, we are also consumers and we have a great deal of shared values with our customer base; however, our day-to-day lives look vastly different on a remote cattle ranch than they would in the concrete jungle of the nation’s largest cities.
To get a better grasp on how our consumers think, I’ve compiled three headlines for us to review and evaluate. As you read through these stories, think of your initial reaction and compare it to how our consumer might be thinking about the article. Does that change the way we might respond to some of these hot button issues? Let’s take a look at this week’s most interesting consumer headlines and determine the best ways for us to balance out the conversations.
1. Alliance pushes back against alternative protein’s ‘clean meat’ claims
Call it cultured meat, test tube meat, fake meat or lab meat, but don’t you dare call it clean meat! That’s what the Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance) is telling the press given the recent media hype with this new meat product hitting the market. In a recent interview, Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO, says while they support consumer choice, calling this product “clean meat” implies that conventionally raised beef is somehow unclean. Whether it’s plant-based meat or test tube meat, the claims that these products are somehow better for the environment are currently unsubstantiated. What’s more, she says consumers can certainly look at these alternatives, but they shouldn’t do so because they are scared of traditional meats available at the grocery store. Watch her interview here.
How do you think consumers will respond to clean meat on the market place? Do you think their perceptions may change if they are referred to as test tube meats or cultured meats? Do you think the term “clean meat” perpetuates the perception that conventional meats are “unclean?”
2. Florida Supreme Court: You can’t grow vegetables on your own property
Home owners associations aside, this is one of those cases where neighbors should worry about their own yards instead of messing with the houses across the street. In Florida, one homeowner took this issue to court after the neighbors complained about the vegetable garden they had planted in their yard. Despite arguing that being unable to plant food for their own personal consumption is a violation of their rights to acquire possess and protect property, the Florida courts thought otherwise. Even though the battle was lost, the war is not over. A bill introduced in the Florida legislature would protect individual property rights. Learn more about it here.
If neighborhoods feel they can control what the houses next door and across the street can do with their personal property, do you think they also feel entitled to decide how you manage your pastures and fields? Do you think many consumers want a closer eye on farmers and ranchers? Do they want a say in the seeds you plant, the genetics you breed your livestock to, the technology you utilize in your operations, the chemicals you apply to your fields, and the time you’re allowed to graze or occupy the land?
If they’ve been told their whole lives that agriculture is inherently bad for the environment, why wouldn’t they want to control your private properties a little bit more closely? Just like this case of a couple having to fight to plant a few tomatoes in the back yard, it’s not much of a leap to think consumers would want to fight to leave the land dormant, under the misguided notion that man is “bad” and letting nature take on its own is “good.” So what’s the best way for the industry should respond? Is it the route of private property rights, sustainability, the need to feed a growing planet or a combination of all three?
3. Couple adopts pet pig from animal shelter only to kill and eat her
The gist of this story goes like this — Canadian couple adopts a pig from a shelter. They decide the pig takes too much maintenance. They eat the pig. Shelter is mortified. Read the dramatic details here.
Is a pig pet or food? Does the definition change whether you bought the pig from a shelter or from a hog farm? Did the couple adopt this pig under false pretenses? And should it be against the law to eat an animal intended for a pet? Or is the animal considered personal property, and because it’s made of bacon, nobody should think twice about it?
Mull over these questions and try to think about the answers from not only a rancher’s perspective but a consumer’s, too. By understanding both sides of the discussion, we can better formulate talking points to the hot button issues that come up about the agricultural industry.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.