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 email@example.com.
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.