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I Read it on the Internet!

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.

Today’s Media Landscape

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.

 

Follow Up: The Unwanted Horse

 

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.


Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?

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.

 

Sustainability – Balancing Competing Priorities

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.

 

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