Attendees saddle up to take action for animal agriculture at the 2016 Stakeholders Summit

Speakers share actionable items to secure a bright future for animal agriculture


May 5, 2016 – To kick off the 2016 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, a panel of seven consumers joined the stage to share their thoughts about agriculture to a packed room of farmers, veterinarians, nutritionists, industry professionals and others passionate about animal agriculture – but the panelists were not aware of who their audience was until the end.


Jan Johnson with Millennium Research Inc. guided the panel discussion around topics including what grocery stores they prefer, what trusted sources they rely on about food and agriculture, what they look for when buying meat and if they had any skepticisms about animal agriculture.


A common theme the panelists soon realized was that they were all skeptics about food. Some panelists agreed that they didn’t know why they preferred one label over another because they weren’t sure what each label meant, but they trusted their friends and what they read on social media to guide their buying decisions.


The insight from the consumer focus group set the stage for attendees to be aware of why they need to take more action to reach consumers who are not familiar with animal agriculture.


On the next panel of the day, David Fikes, vice president of communications and consumer/community affairs at the Food Marketing Institute and Steve Potts, campus general manager with the Levy Restaurant Group shared their views on how animal agriculture could provide solutions to retail challenges.


Potts emphasized that “flexibility is key” in the retail community and that consumers are interested in food from local farms and farmers’ markets, but that global brands still have an importance.


“The truth is we are all consumers,” said Fikes. Consumers were focused on price, taste and convenience in previous years, but the focus has shifted to animal welfare and the quality of life of food-producing animals. In a retailer, consumers are looking for if the company has a “commitment to humane treatment of food animals,” according to Fikes.


Fikes revealed that restaurants and retailers are experiencing “an enormous amount of pressure” from activist organizations, not their customers, to change the way they source meat, milk and eggs and it is enough pressure for retailers to make the changes.


Ways for animal agriculture to help the retail community are to recognize hot button issues for consumers, deepen your social media presence, share your experience and listen to the consumers, realize there is always room for more education and invite chefs to the farm to help them better engage consumers about food production.


“Agriculture is America’s first and most enduring industry,” said Tyson Redpath, senior vice president of The Russell Group during his presentation about the 2016 election’s potential impacts on agriculture. “But have you seen a candidate speak less of animal agriculture? It’s as if it doesn’t even matter.”


Redpath explored what the election could mean for animal agriculture and that there is a gap between the public and the scientific community because “political correctness has hit a wall” and the rules have changed, but “we are obligated to play by the new rules for animal agriculture.”


Redpath challenged attendees to take action for animal agriculture by having less dialogue and taking more action, stepping up and thinking about everything differently, get communicators to act more like lobbyists and meet with communicators from allied industries on a regular basis.

Redpath ended with a quote from John Wayne. “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”


The Summit continues throughout this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Follow along on social media using #AAA16.


Thank you to all our Summit sponsors: U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, Meatingplace, Farm Journal Media, Watt Global Media, Farm Credit, American Feed Industry Association, National Pork Board, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, Alltech, Zoetis, Diamond V, Charleston|Orwig, National Pork Producers Council, Merck Animal Health, Smithfield, Provimi, Bayer Animal Health, PotashCorp, Seaboard Foods, Iowa Soybean Association, Aviagen, Cattle Empire, United Soybean Board, Elanco Animal Health, Council for Biotechnology Information/GMO Answers, The National Turkey Federation’s 20 by 2020 Project, United Egg Producers, Kemin Industries, American Veal Association, Cobb-Vantress, GNP Company, Agri Beef Co., National Chicken Council, North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy MAX, Live Oak Bank, Millennium Research Inc., Eggland’s Best and the Food Industry Environmental Network.

About the Alliance:

The Animal Agriculture Alliance is an industry-united, nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. We connect key food industry stakeholders to arm them with responses to emerging issues. We engage food chain influencers and promote consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. We protect by exposing those who threaten our nation’s food security with damaging misinformation.
Find the Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.

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