I was inundated this week with people putting out positive messages for our industry – which, of course, is a great thing. I heard several bright, articulate young ladies address nutritional concerns, animal welfare concerns, and environmental concerns regarding beef production with sound, solid scientific facts. They did a great job of proving that some of the misconceptions and perceptions regarding beef production being advanced by our opponents are for the most part wrong or out-and-out distortions (lies).
Also this week, the industry picked up and promoted research done by two Stanford professors who showed that modern ag probably should be heralded for reducing greenhouse emissions rather than demonized for producing them. It points out what we’ve always known – modern ag has increased efficiency and lowered both the economic and environmental costs of feeding the world. It’s not only a good read but the conclusions are certainly great talking points and are backed by real science.
I would never argue that it’s a bad thing to have the facts and the science on your side, but I also think we rely on it too much sometimes; particularly when one considers that our opponents have never had the facts on their side. Sure, it was embarrassing where we didn’t have the science to prove their claims wrong, which was certainly the case when the nutritional, environmental and even animal welfare attacks got started.
I do believe it’s crucial to have sound science and facts to back up your arguments, but how many people have gone out to a ranch or farm and came away thinking we were polluting the world? The answer is so obvious that it’s intuitive. Does anyone really think that a hamburger is the problem in their diet? Or, is the culprit the soft drinks and junk food they have no intention of cutting back on?
Consumers are smart; they’re simply disconnected from our lifestyle. Thus, they’re susceptible to believing the negative perceptions that our opponents work to create. We must bridge the gap that exists between the consumer and the production system. We must understand this is an emotional issue and most of the attacks on beef, livestock production and modern ag in general are red herrings. They’re really attacking private property rights, modern efficient ag, and capitalism.
Yes, we still need to defend these attacks with facts, but we will only win when we destroy the myths of factory farming and a corporate agriculture bent on profit at the expense of consumers, the land and animals. This is the image that allows the other arguments to stand on emotion even though the facts don’t support it; it this image that must be rectified.
People must understand that the overwhelming majority of food is produced by family farmers and ranchers, folks who make little profit and do it because of a tradition that includes a love of the land, of animals, and the desire to pass those values and lifestyle to the next generation. The foundation upon which the emotional appeals of our adversaries are based comes crumbling down in the face of what modern ag truly is; that’s the message that we must make sure consumers understand.