If a person or organization questioned the sustainability of your business, how would you respond? Would you speak only about environmental issues?
The current focus on sustainability may be too limiting. Sustainability definitions that focus only on environmental impacts, or any single element, run the risk of overlooking other important issues such as food safety, animal health and well-being, worker safety and food cost.
At the Center for Food Integrity, we believe a successful food system requires balance. A sustainable food system is grounded in ethics, verified by scientific evidence and is economically viable. When these three elements are balanced, we can have systems that are sustainable and supported by stakeholders across the food system. Taking this balance into consideration when making purchasing decisions can help avoid unintended consequences.
You can learn more about CFI’s holistic approach to sustainability during the NRA Show 2013 on May 18th when CEO Charlie Arnot participates in a panel discussion on the issue. To learn more, follow CFI on Twitter @foodintegrity, Charlie @Charlie_Arnot and take a look at this video preview of the session. We hope to see you there.
Posted by Charlie.
I’m not sure who comes up with some of these out-of-the-blue observances throughout the year. Did you know the week of April 18-24 is Fish Fry Week? Cleaning for a Reason Week? Coin Week? Oh, and we can’t forget, Sky Awareness Week (my neck hurts already). But as luck would have it for this blog writer, the week of April 18-24 is also Consumer Awareness Week.
It ties quite nicely into what we do here at the Center for Food Integrity. Our mission is to get to know consumers – and provide objective education and resources to help them make informed decisions when they visit their grocery store or sit down at their favorite eatery. We also work with the food chain – from farmers and food companies, to restaurants and retailers – developing values-based programs and tools to help them build trust with consumers by communicating not just what they do – but why.
Here’s a sample of how CFI celebrates the consumer:
Consumer Trust It all starts with research. CFI developed the model for consumer trust, and our annual consumer trust survey provides insights into what consumers are thinking on key food issues – whom they trust to produce their food and why. It allows us to provide the food industry with direction on shaping tailored communications and outreach.
Best Food Facts (www.bestfoodfacts.org) Is organic better for me? Are hormones in milk causing early puberty? What’s that white goo on cooked chicken? Consumers seeking answers to questions about today’s food can tap into this resource for credible, balanced and unbiased information from food system experts to support informed choices.
Engage We provide those in the food system with values-based communications training in this interactive and educational workshop. We teach the skills to effectively engage with consumers in day-to-day interactions, through the media, in online environments and with opinion leaders.
Engage Resource Center (www.cfiengage.com) This online resource helps the food industry set the record straight with consumers – providing values-based messaging, talking points and other tools to quickly and effectively respond to trending issues and misinformation in traditional and online media.
Farmers Feed US (www.farmersfeedus.org) Consumers log on, meet the farmers who are producing their food and register to win free groceries for a year in this state-based program that’s seeing impressive results when it comes to building trust.
Our outreach continues through innovative programs like New Conversations and Project Public Voice. At CFI – we’re celebrating the consumer – and celebrating big. Are you? Learn more about how to effectively reach your most important audience by contacting Terry Fleck, CFI executive director, at (816) 556-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Jana.
My mom grew up on a cattle and cotton farm in West Texas. My dad worked the summers of his youth on his uncle’s wheat farm in North-Central Kansas. My ancestors before that depended entirely upon agriculture. By planting crops and raising livestock, they were able to survive the hardships of immigrating to this new country, the burdens of war and even the Great Depression.
Conversely, I then spent my entire childhood growing up in suburbia, removed from my family’s heritage and history in producing food. The closest I ever came to agriculture was the occasional trip to my grandparents’, who had long since moved into town, and hearing stories about “the farm.” It wasn’t until years later when I started development of CFI’s Farmers Feed US program, helping farmers tell their unique stories, that I gained an appreciation for their work and the food they produce.
Now, nearly four years after starting that program, I’ve worked with more than 80 farmers in 13 states, seeing first hand their daily dedication and hard work to produce safe, nutritious and affordable food for families in this country and around the world. I’ve worked with farmers whose operations are large and small, focused and highly-diversified, family-run or individually-operated.
Having met those farmers and gained an understanding of their role in food production, they’ve helped open my eyes to the importance of a variety of food production systems, helping to provide foods for our growing population.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to meet farmers like many of us have. That’s why it’s important, with the goal of building consumer trust and confidence in today’s farmers and food system, that those in food production make the effort to reach consumers on their terms. Whether through the public promotion of farmers, or simply during a chance encounter at the corner gas station, opportunities to meet farmers and others in food production can have a positive impact on building trust.
Posted by Mark.
There’s a great TV show that puts people in situations that challenge morals and beg for intervention. No, not Jersey Shore. I’m talking about What Would You Do? hosted by John Quiñones, and I LOVE it. Considering one of my degrees is in psychology, it’s no wonder I find human interactions fascinating. The best part of the show is that it’s not real, though the scenarios certainly could happen in our real lives. As a viewer, I find myself rooting for those who hold others accountable and make sure justice is served.
I remember the first time I saw an undercover video of a cow being abused. I was horrified, to say the least. Having grown up on a dairy farm where all our animals were treated with great respect, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could treat an animal in such a way.
In addition to being infuriated with those in the videos who abused animals, I was equally angry with those who witnessed the abuse and did nothing to take immediate action. Not speaking up meant that the person behind the camera chose to ignore the mistreatment in an effort to have a video to promote.
I don’t know anyone who has worked with animals that would think this approach of videotaping abuse, yet not intervening, is anything but atrocious.
When I had the opportunity to work on the new See it? Stop it! initiative, I knew this was a step in the right direction to give farm workers the tools to immediately take action to stop instances of animal abuse, neglect, mistreatment and harm. Through CFI’s animal care review panel process, we learned that when undercover video had been shot, there were farm workers who questioned the way animals were being handled, but they either didn’t know who to contact, or didn’t realize that they should say something. To me, See it? Stop it! represents a philosophy of care on farms that confirmed a culture of doing what’s right for animals. The initiative not only sets the expectation for workers about their role in maintaining proper care of animals, it also gives them a path to report instances immediately.
With sponsorship support from the U.S. pork and dairy industries and endorsement by the American Humane Association (America’s oldest animal protection organization), I believe animal agriculture is taking another step forward in demonstrating its commitment not only to proper animal care, but also to correcting instances where care is being questioned.
Posted by Roxi.
We recently produced and posted to YouTube a video detailing the need to double food production with the finite resources available to us. For instance, only 1/32nd of the earth’s surface can be used for food production, while less than one half of one percent of the water on the planet is available for human use, with 70 percent of it being used for irrigation to grow food.
As the World Wildlife Fund has pointed out, global population is growing exponentially and by 2050, we’ll need to produce twice the number of calories on the land already being farmed if we want to feed that population, while protecting our ecosystems and biodiversity.
These statistics prompted one YouTube viewer to comment, “Whoa …. how do I help?” While there are many ways each of us can support today’s food system, here are a few that offer a good starting point.
- Learn more about where food comes from and why we have so many choices. There is growing public interest in how our food is produced, with some calling for radical change. People who have questions about modern food production should engage with food companies in a civil way. Many of those companies are very open to participating in the conversation about today’s food understanding the need to be transparent and accessible.
- Understand that policy decisions and market mandates can carry unintended consequences. Buying local or organic are valued choices for people who feel they best fit their personal philosophies and lifestyles. But if offered as the only market option, they are in effect limiting the food system’s ability to produce more food using fewer resources.
- Support food choice. Safe and nutritious foods are readily available, whether they come from a neighborhood grocery store, the local farmer’s markets, a supercenter or your backyard garden. Let’s enjoy all of the foods these many options offer.
- People should expect farmers, food processors, restaurants and grocery stores to act responsibly, and those who do not should be held accountable. But to decrease the risk of global hunger, both now and for future generations, it’s important that we’re also able to embrace the responsible use of technology and innovation in food production. Without it, someone, somewhere, will go hungry.
Join the national conversation on food and be supportive of responsible, efficient production systems that allow us to feed more, using less. Doing so is the ethical choice for people, animals and the planet.
Posted by Cliff.