Keiffer, who stressed she is a meat lover who supports livestock producers, also said mainstream animal agriculture needs to reconsider its defense of some uses of antibiotics and beta agonists. She cited antibiotic residues in animal waste and antibiotic-resistant pathogens, and said 160 countries have banned the use of ractopamine in livestock. Animal agriculture’s scientific defense of these products, she maintains, send a message that the industry favors profit motive over public safety.
We’re in the midst of a food revolution, Keiffer says. Influential celebrity chefs are embracing new paradigms in raising livestock and progressive food companies are shifting toward more “natural’ production systems. Keiffer acknowledged that specialty meats such as organic or free range cost more, often a lot more, and seemed to suggest there is huge, untapped demand for these products, even at exponentially higher prices, which caused some eyes to roll in the audience.
Many in the audience disagreed with some of the details in Keiffer’s presentation, but accepted her message that stakeholders in animal agriculture need to listen to consumers and embrace change.
Taking more of the middle road, David Westcott, director of digital strategy for APCO Worldwide and a social-media expert joined a panel on using social media. He led off saying legal arguments to defend practices do not play well with consumers. In response to the earlier statement that consumers “do not have a right to know how their food is produced,” he responded “tell that to a mom.”
As for dialog with consumers, he simplified the process by suggesting three steps:
- Know who your stakeholders are.
- Ask them what they want.
- Give it to them.