As I was searching the internet this week, I came across a blog post by Food Mommy. The post was titled: Agriculture’s worst enemies may be farmers. I had never run across this particular blogger before and the title piqued my interest as I have this same thought quite frequently.
In this post, Food Mommy talks about an experience she had purchasing some chickens to produce her own eggs. In search of answers to her questions, the author met with a “backyard” chicken farmer. This particular “backyard” farmer told her the chickens and eggs from small operations were better because they are free of steroids and hormones. As Food Mommy rightly points out in her blog, steroids and hormone use in poultry production has been prohibited in poultry production for decades. Yet, this “backyard” farmer insisted that big chicken farmers still use them anyway. The author of the blog questions whether this “backyard” farmer really thinks she’s stating a fact or was it just a case of opportunistic marketing?
I know I come across what you might consider opportunistic marketing tactics all the time. I also consider this to be “fear-mongering” to sell a product. Every time I go to the farmers market, and see the vendors sporting handwritten cardboard signs that read “no pesticides” or “non-certified organic” I roll my eyes. Does “no pesticides” handwritten on a piece of cardboard infer that this product is any different than another product or better? Or does it infer that all other fruits and vegetables contain pesticides? Does it mean that currently right now those vegetables don’t have pesticides on them, but they might have? And what does “non-certified organic” really mean?
I think marketing ploys like these only add to the confusion.
One that drives me particularly crazy is when I see farmers use the marketing slogan, “we’re a family run company, not a big corporation or a factory farm.” I have traveled this country far and wide, been on hundreds of operations in my lifetime, all types sizes and scale, and I have yet to see a factory farm. Who are we all talking about? Last time I checked 98 percent of U.S. farms are operated by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
And, of all the farms I’ve traveled to the size of the farm was not an indicator of the quality of care the animal received. Every farm I’ve ever been to (big or small) the farmers cared just as deeply about their animals as the one before. Just because farms look different, doesn’t mean that the farmers care any less about their animals.
I can’t say all of agriculture is blameless when it comes to these marketing techniques, but I do tend to see these types of tactics employed by smaller niche farming operations. I hate to break it to you folks, but we’re all in this together.
Why can’t we just market our products on their positive attributes, and not at the expense of one another? You may say its capitalism, you can market your product as you see fit. Perhaps it’s a utopian idea for everyone in agriculture to be on the same page or working together.
Let me be clear, I don’t have any issue with grass-fed, organic, or any other form of alternative agriculture. I truly believe there is a place for every form of agriculture – big, medium, small, organic, or conventional/modern. I love the diversity these niche markets have brought to the table. What I do have an issue with is when farmers, of any size and type, use fear-mongering to push their products.
Spreading misinformation and backbiting within the agriculture industry, while it may seem harmless at the time, only erodes consumer confidence in the entire food system. In the end it hurts us all.
And, if you’re a consumer how do you know who to trust?