should ag fight back to negative ads

Should Ag Make Such A Fuss About Negative Media Attention?

Surely by now, you’ve seen or heard about Chipotle’s newest ad campaign featuring a scarecrow that dramatizes the alleged horrors happening on livestock operations. The ad uses heavy drama and sensationalism to pull at our heartstrings and develop anxiety about the safety of our food. Of course, the purpose of this ad is really to sell more “all-natural” burritos; never mind that the chain recently admitted that it now would allow conventional beef to stuff their taco shells. Chipotle continues to sling mud, and its most recent advertisement is testament to that.

While many might have been hoodwinked by the ad, farmers and ranchers had other things to say about it. It’s amazing to see how quickly we, as an industry, can respond to these issues that require positive messages from the industry to counteract.

A friend who grew up on a ranch in South Dakota, recently asked me if our loud response to the Chipotle ad was in a way counterproductive. I scratched my head at his question because I thought the answer was an obvious, “of course not.” We can’t ignore these negative attacks. But after some reflection, could it be possible that we cause unintended harm by stirring the pot in discussing these ads?

 

Read last week's BEEF Daily discussion on Chipotle here.

 

Allow me to play devil’s advocate here as I explain. Matt, my friend, posted on his Facebook page this simple question, “So some minor social research. My friends in agriculture are making a huge rally against the most recent Chipotle advertisement. Can any of my non-agriculture friends tell me if they have seen this most recent ad and what they think of it? Also, if you would be kind enough to let me know why you eat at Chipotle I would sure appreciate it!”

He had more than a dozen responses to his question, ranging from “haven’t seen it” and “could care less,” to “who cares? Chipotle tastes good!” Other responders indicated they hadn’t seen the ad until they saw a farmer friend of theirs share it on their Facebook wall to open up the discussion. Several also chimed in with concern about antibiotic use in livestock production, and even more posted about the importance of sourcing and consuming as much local food as possible. It appeared the responses were from average consumers who weren’t involved in the livestock industry, and several said they were unaware of the campaign until social media blew up about it.

I think we need to question how and where we respond to these negative attacks on agriculture. Instead of virtually sharing the Chipotle ad to discuss it, perhaps we should make an effort to seek out places where it is already being discussed. We can do this by following Twitter, Instagram or Facebook hashtags, or Google alerts to learn where the talk is already happening.

I hope this provides some food for thought for the next time we see a negative attack. We don’t want to help spread their message. We simply want to be a part of the conversation. And I think there is a distinct difference between the two.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Could our outreach tactics be fanning the effect of these misleading ads? What approach should we take? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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