We’re bombarded with information – and often misinformation – about food. In newspapers and magazines, on Facebook and Twitter, in our day-to-day conversations. It’s no wonder anxious consumers are wringing their hands and asking more questions. Is organic better for me? Should I eat processed foods? Will GM foods harm me and my family?
It’s part of a growing skepticism among consumers about “big food.” The “factory farms” and “corporations” producing our food just can’t be trusted. They believe that mass production creates more opportunity for error, that industrialized food production is inherently impersonal, and that big companies will put profits ahead of public interest.
So how do we overcome this “big is bad” bias and ensure consumers that modern food production is worthy of their trust?
It boils down to transparency. Our annual research has shown that transparency builds trust. But what is transparency? Now we know.
The 2013 CFI consumer trust research defines transparency and provides a roadmap for agriculture and food to create Trust-Building Transparency. In our latest research, we identified seven components in our Trust-Building Transparency model.
- Motivation – Act in a manner that is ethical and consistent with stakeholder interests.
- Disclosure – Share publicly all information, both positive and negative.
- Stakeholder Participation – Engage those interested in your activities or impact.
- Relevance – Share information stakeholders deem relevant.
- Clarity – Share information that is easily understood and easily obtained.
- Credibility – Share positive and negative information that supports informed stakeholder decision making and have a history of operating with integrity.
- Accuracy – Share information that is truthful, objective, reliable and complete.
We then tested 33 attributes of the seven elements.
The results show that our definition of Trust-Building Transparency rings true with the public. More than half the respondents gave ratings of 8-10 on a 10-point scale on all 33 attributes. Their responses provide clear direction on exactly what we can do to overcome their bias and skepticism and earn their trust.
As a result, we’ve developed a Seven Steps to Trust-Building Transparency model and are excited to bring it to companies and organizations interested in building trust with their stakeholders and consumers. If you’d like to learn more please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to partner with you as we work toward our shared goal of restoring consumer confidence.
P.S. I invite you to register for our free 2013 Consumer Trust Research webinars!
Food plays such an integral role in each of our lives. Consumed for both health and pleasure, in 3-square meals or snacks throughout the day, food is sustenance, pleasure and the root of so many conversations.
Food Day is a multi-dimensional national initiative created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest that celebrates “healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies.” The annual event will take place throughout the nation on Thursday, Oct. 24. Click here for more information about Food Day 2013.
As an integral partner in the food system, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) believes that it’s important to be a visible and active participant in the messaging surrounding Food Day 2013 activities. This includes online interactions that share information from our more than 150 university experts on BestFoodFacts.com about subjects such as food production, responsible sustainability and being a transparent partner in the food system.
This year, CFI will highlight the topics of Education, Hunger Reduction and Support for Farms and Farmers for its focus during Food Day 2013.
- Education Best Food Facts, the consumer-facing website offers research on food resources and production.
- Hunger Reduction How can we use enhanced technology including genetically modified crops to feed the growing world populations? Global Hunger Solutions 2013.
- Support for Farms and Farmers Find first-account information from America’s farmers through CFI’s Farmers Feed US, Meet America’s Farmer YouTube channel and Seasons on Farm.
For more information about Food Day and how you can become involved, please visit www.cfiengage.com. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating food!
More than ever before, the way people get their information is rapidly changing.
According to CFI research, consumers are increasingly turning to online sources for information about the food system. How many times have you heard somebody say, “I read it on the internet!” Consumers also receive information from friends and family, their local television station, newspapers and radio as well.
Each of these sources of information provides an opportunity for you to engage with consumers. Offering yourself as a trusted source of information to local reporters is one way you can contribute accurate and meaningful content to stories about today’s food system.
We also encourage you to monitor local sources and make your voice heard when you see:
- Misinformation or inaccuracies - If you see an article or blog posting that contains misinformation about farming or the food system, contact the reporter, write a letter to the editor, or submit an online comment. Tell your story and present truthful information so consumers can see another side of the story.
- Opportunities to promote the benefits of today's food system - Oftentimes, there are numerous opportunities to proactively promote the benefits of today's food system, particularly during community events and holidays. Tie into the theme of the event or holiday and write an opinion-editorial article or post a short story online that delivers a timely and beneficial message.
Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Most consumers today are more than two generations removed from the farm. They don’t understand why farms look like they do today, why beneficial technology is used, or other recent advances in food production. What they want to know first and foremost is that farmers are doing the right thing and share their values.
For more information about shared values communication, please check out www.cfiengage.com.
Posted by Abby.
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.