Did you know that if you rearrange the letters in the word “dormitory,” you can also spell “dirty room”? Or the letters in “slot machines” also spell “cash lost in ’em”?
It’s all about perspective. How you look at one thing could be something different to someone else.
We see pigs; consumers see bacon. We see a cow; consumers see chocolate milk. We see potatoes; consumers see french fries.
And when consumers see food, they need to see food they can trust. Healthy food that’s safe to eat. It’s as fundamental a right as healthy air and healthy water.
No, there’s nothing new about interest in health food, or healthier foods, but as baby boomers age, they want to live longer and take care of their bodies – and they have the money to support their wants.
Agriculture can no longer attribute this growing trend to a small fringe. What used to be niche is now mainstream. Yesterday’s tie-dyed T-shirts are today’s Land’s End polos.
And so if we want to improve agricultural awareness, we need to think from a consumer’s perspective: What do they eat? Why do they buy it? What are their concerns?
Bottom line? Customers want to know that the food they eat is safe.
And at least one social observer is suggesting that the growing trend toward local food, natural food, organic food or nutritionally enhanced foods like omega 3 eggs is a sign of distrust of the existing food supply.
People still trust U.S. farmers, Catherine Carstairs of the University of Guelph recently told a radio talk show host, they just don’t trust the government to adequately protect and regulate our food supply.
Some of that comes because people don’t understand food production and processing, but some of the concern is rightfully triggered when we hear more frequent food safety reports like the recent melamine contamination in pet food scraps that were then fed to hogs and chickens.
Trust comes with positive experiences, trust takes time to build, and trust can disappear in an instant.
We should be doing everything we can, as a food industry, to bolster public confidence in the food supply. The agriculture community should be, for example, calling for more inspections of imported and domestic food, more testing of both imported and domestic food ingredients.
Consumers trust people, not faceless entities. We need to be sure agriculture has a face. And then we need to be sure our products are always worthy of that trust.
They may not be spelled with the same letters, but the word “farming” also means “safety,” “quality,” “health” and the “environment.”
It all depends on your perspective. And it depends on who you trust.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)