One of the weapons used when attacking the beef industry is the term “factory farming,” used to paint a picture of animal suffering, excessive antibiotic and hormone use, food safety concerns and environmental damage. A July consumer tracking study, funded by the beef checkoff, found that the percentage of consumers who are familiar with the term “factory farming” increased from 49 percent to 64 percent in the last two years, though the number of consumers who associate cattle with factory farming has remained fairly stable since 2008.
The study also found that more than half of consumers believe the beef they buy at the supermarket is from animals raised in factory farms. Of concern, more than half of these consumers worry about the safety of the beef they buy.
“It's a frightening fact how disconnected consumers have become from the everyday workings of our farms and ranches,” says Daryl Berlier Owen, chairman of the checkoff’s Public Opinion and Issues Management group, and cow-calf/feeder from Amarillo, Texas. “This report may help us learn how to present our story in a way that improves consumers' perceptions of modern beef production. Consumers need to know about the conscientious animal care and the focus on safety, to which our industry is dedicated.”
The checkoff’s issues management team continues to reinforce the need for producers to share their story with fellow producers, the media and consumers. The industry seems to be operating based on bad news, misperceptions, misinformation and fear of the unknown, which creates consumer guilt over buying beef. According to past checkoff studies, the most compelling animal welfare support statement to combat those “factory farming” accusations is, “doing the right thing for and by animals” which can help alleviate a tremendous guilt burden.
“Consumers want to buy beef,” concludes Owen. “If we continue to share our good news and stories about real, hard-working people, we can create the confidence consumers need to keep buying beef.”
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Source: Beef Checkoff