Most people today are more removed than ever from their food sources. At the same time, consumers are more concerned than ever about where their food comes from. Sustainability is the ruling concept. What can producers do to connect with the people who ultimately buy meat, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruits, wine, food, fuel, fiber and the myriad other items made from agricultural products?
First, it is a good thing that consumers care about their food source! It creates opportunities for producers to share information about their farms and facilities that the public may not know. Heightened consumer interest can also grow new markets for specialty products or different grades of existing products.
Second, many consumers list animal welfare as a main concern about their food sources. Producers can utilize this chance to educate the public about how livestock animals are treated and learn more from consumers about their concerns. A key goal for the animal agriculture sector is to eliminate any doubt in the consumer’s mind that the animals that feed us are treated well during their lifetime.
Third, the word “sustainability” encompasses all manner of metrics, including social justice, workers’ rights, local economy, human impact on environment, and other ideas. Processors, producers, and anyone involved in agriculture can be specific about how a certain product or process addresses these sustainability criteria. Processors can accurately label food (in accordance with state and federal label law, of course!) with animal care details to reassure consumers. Websites and social media posts should communicate a farm’s steps to improve the environment, take care of their employees, and support local economies.
Agriculture can help save the planet. Adopting “sustainable” practices in all their forms—and communicating those practices to the consumer—will improve our society and can increase producers’ bottom line. Agriculture has been and will continue to be a leader in sustainability.