Concern that sometimes flashes into hysteria is what many folks have about our nation’s food system. How can we inject some balance into the emotions that consumers feel when they shop for groceries?
The growing consumer concern over our nation’s food supply is, I think, characterized by a single quote by author Laurell K. Hamilton, who says, “People are supposed to fear the unknown, but ignorance is bliss when knowledge is so damn frightening.”
In this country, we have one segment of the population that is relieved to have food on the table. They rely on food stamps to help pay for groceries, and are grateful for the abundance of affordable food that is available. Moreover, one in eight Americans and one in four children in the U.S. go to bed hungry at night.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have a segment of the population with a greater amount of disposable income. They are concerned about antibiotics, growth promotants, food-borne illness, chemical use, food laborers, allergens and food-production methods. Right or wrong, this latter group are the influencers, and their concerns are threatening to create a hysteria in this country like we’ve never seen before. In the land of plenty, we suddenly questioning whether our food is safe. And some in society are demanding changes.
Subscribe now to Cattle Market Weekly for the latest price trends and market news!
Take for example the March Against Monsanto held in Washington, D.C., earlier this year to protest genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. And, just this week, the issue was debated in the New York Times, with proponents contending that GMO rice could help feed the world’s starving people, while opponents claim that children shouldn’t be “science projects.”
Right or wrong, this mistrust in our system is also evident regarding our medical establishment, where more affluent parents are saying no to vaccine use in their children. Read “What’s With Rich People Hating Vaccines?” to learn more.
Not only are we less trusting of our food supply and our medical professionals, but we also doubt the value of the food itself. Some believe food, like animal proteins, are medicine, while others believe those same foods should be taxed because they lead to adverse health conditions. Remember when the Danes tried to tax butter? Should saturated fat be taxed, much like nicotine and soda?
In most of these conversations, fear-mongering has replaced science and common sense. Well-educated individuals are reading something they found on Google and placing more trust there than they do with nutritionists, dietitians, physicians and scientists. When did we this shift in thinking occur? And how does that relate to beef producers?
We need to be mindful of how our consumers perceive beef in the meat case. What are they thinking about when they make their selections? What concerns do they have about our product? If fear is one of the biggest factors they have in the backs of their mind when shopping, how can we alleviate those fears and re-instill confidence in our product? This is something I’m mulling over today and would like your thoughts? Let me know your opinion in the comments section below.
You might also like: