The media landscape today is a large canvas that can be painted from every imaginable angle with a spectrum of color. We’re more tuned in than ever before, and are constantly being bombarded with messages, advertisements, information and misinformation. Topics we’ve never heard of suddenly become mainstream issues that evoke panic and fear among the masses. And industry terms that we use every day can be misconstrued and, suddenly, we have an issue spiraling out of control that wasn’t even an issue just yesterday.
How does this happen? People’s use of media has changed. For example:
- Roughly two billion people are now connected to the internet
- Social media accounts for nearly 25 percent of time spent online
- Everyone with a cell phone has the potential to be a cinematographer
- Employees, consumers, customers, bloggers, social media food communities, activists, NGOs and others can all directly influence the public conversation about individual companies/brands/industries in a matter of seconds
- By the year 2015, 80 percent of the global population will have a personal mobile device that can be both a receiver and a transmitter
So how do we manage the influx of messages? At CFI, we utilize a proprietary media monitoring process to keep track of issues and trends within the food system. Our Strategic Intelligence and Trend Evaluation (SITE) process monitors more than 190,000 traditional news media sources as well as more than 300 million social media conversations. Our members have access to custom monitoring reports on issues that may impact their organization – from food safety to animal welfare to nutrition to environment – and can keep them up-to-date on developing and emerging issues.
So the next time the paintbrush strokes the canvas, we can monitor it to make sure the colors don’t run together.
Posted by Jenny.
A few years ago, funding opened up for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fund horse-harvesting facilities again. What does this mean for The Unwanted Horse?
The USDA has been working with harvesting facilities in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa. In order for these facilities to start, they must be USDA inspected. Even though the horse meat will be exported, it will still go through the same process of inspection as beef, pork, and chicken. There is no worry for horse meat getting mixed in with other meat. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said in a recent article from Farmers Futures that with the “stringent inspection process, testing capabilities, and labeling requirements, American consumers should not be concerned that horse meat will be labeled and sold as meat of another species.”
Horse slaughter is a sensitive topic. There are people who are all for it and ready to get the harvest facilities back open. Other people are completely opposed -- horses have been a part of history for such a long time, and they have gone from being a working livestock animal to a companion animal. Growing up, I wanted a pet horse just like every other girl, and this makes me hesitant to take sides. Many young girls and boys grow up wanting horses and seeing them as pets. This makes the topic of horse slaughter even more sensitive. There are animal rights groups that are taking action to prevent the facilities from opening.
So what are horses? Do they go in the same group with other livestock animals like cows, pigs and chickens? Or do they become permanent companion animals and live out their long lives?
One thing is for certain -- this is a topic that will continue to resurface with multiple opinions for years to come.
Posted by Kristin.
I saw a t-shirt the other day that said, “My favorite sports team is better than your favorite sports team.” I laughed but later thought there’s a lot of truth in that.
It’s not necessary to have an iron clad reason for rooting for a given team. Maybe it’s your alma mater. Maybe you have fond memories of watching games with family when you were young. Maybe following a certain team reminds you of a simpler time. Or maybe you pull for a certain team for no other reason than that’s what you’ve always done.
We’ve become a society of teams. How many times have you wondered if elected officials are only interested in voting the party line? During TV talk shows, do any of the roundtable participants really listen to the other points being made?
On food system issues, how many times have you witnessed two sides lobbing allegations back and forth in unproductive debate? All are passionate and determined to make the other side see that their position is correct.
Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt says when people share values and morals they become a team. Once team psychology is in play, open-minded thinking can become difficult. He asks, "Can't we all disagree more constructively?"
Today’s food production systems have received a lot of attention in recent years but there really has not been a meaningful national discussion. Two camps, each convinced they are right, have gone back and forth on topics ranging from proper care for farm animals to genetically modified organisms.
The public senses change in the way food is produced but does not have a deep understanding of why or how it happened. Lack of understanding creates opportunity for conflict.
When engaging with concerned consumers on complex topics there must be a willingness to look for areas of common interest even if it seems unattainable. After all, food is a very personal subject and people have a right to expect that what they eat and provide their families is being produced responsibly.
Consumers want permission to believe that what happens in food production is consistent with their values and expectations. We can provide that by communicating our values and commitment to the right thing.
Posted by Cliff.
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.