John Paterson: Increased animal welfare concerns here to stay | TSLN.com

John Paterson: Increased animal welfare concerns here to stay

Bill Brewster

Photo by Bill BrewsterDr. John Paterson.

The concerns that consumers have today regarding animal welfare issues are here to stay according to Montana State University’s senior beef extension specialist John Paterson. He encouraged producers to take proactive actions to ward off the threat of increased government regulations.

That’s the message Paterson, PhD, PAS gave to Montana extension agents and 4-H volunteer leaders during the Montana 4-H Horse & Livestock Leaders’ Forum on Jan. 28-30 in Helena.

To reach this goal, he suggested farmers and ranchers: have an ethical obligation to care for animals raised for food; recognize animal well-being is critical to providing quality food products; and recognize care should be the highest priority for both large and small farms.

Over the past 80 years, Paterson explained, there has been a dynamic change in the profiles and backgrounds of consumers. Those consumers today range from the aging members of our society (born between the early 1900s-1940s) to Baby Boomers (born from 1950s-1960s) to the 1970s Gen X population and onto the Generation Y population that has entered the marketplace in recent years.

Although each age group shows certain common characteristics and attitudes, they all have migrated to today’s environment of instant communications that features the use Facebook, MySpace Twitter, Blackberry, iPod and Droid phones, e-mail, Web sites and blogging.

Through these social media and digital communications tools, a huge percentage of the population stays tuned in to a wide variety of issues regarding animal welfare, food safety and the environment practices on an ongoing basis, he said.

Recommended Stories For You

Consumers are concerned about factory farm production and wonder if animals are mistreated and if they contribute to global warming, according to Paterson’s research. They also wonder if beef is safe to serve to their families and if eating beef increases their risk of heart disease and cancer, he found. The concerns, of course, are the very ones that the critics of animal agriculture have expressed through social networks.

Paterson said in 1984, consumers wanted taste, convenience, nutrition, variety and affordable prices from beef. In 2009, surveys showed they wanted those same benefits plus the social causes of the environment, sustainability and animal welfare. Ninety-five percent of consumers favor conventional (traditional) foods while five percent favor lifestyle foods which provide some form of political expression such as organic products or the lack of antibiotics.

Paterson said women account for 93 percent of food purchases and “feel a strong emotional attachment to beef” but they are confused about terms such as organic or sustainable. They seek emotional pillars such as trust to be reassured that farm families care about their animals and beef quality. They also want a freedom of choice to allow them to control their food-purchase decisions.

For today’s consumer “story beef” is now important, he said. Consumers want to know if the livestock producer lives nearby, properly cared for the animals, treats farm/ranch workers in a fair manner, practices environmental stewardship, operates sustainably and receives a fair price for the products they produce.

Today’s consumers thinks animal welfare means “humane” and “natural” and they believe that modern, intensive production systems are “unnatural” and “unhealthy.” A lack of information about modern rearing systems is promoting distrust of both producers and retailers, he said.

A survey by the Animal Welfare Institute showed that 68 percent of consumers wanted to know what farmers are doing to ensure animal care and another survey showed “humane” was the most often, top-ranked choice above locally grown. A survey by Ohio State University showed that 59 percent of Ohioans would be willing to pay more for meat, poultry or dairy labels as coming from humanely treated animals.

“For many of us, our mantra of animal management has been based on sound science that is publishable, peer-reviewed, statistically analyzed and repeatable but many believe that this argument missed the point,” he noted.

“The public isn’t demanding to know where food comes from; they have figured that out,” he noted. “However, the consumer is demanding to be assured that the people who produce their food can be trusted to care for animals and to use on-farm technology responsibly and sustainably.”

The concerns that consumers have today regarding animal welfare issues are here to stay according to Montana State University’s senior beef extension specialist John Paterson. He encouraged producers to take proactive actions to ward off the threat of increased government regulations.

That’s the message Paterson, PhD, PAS gave to Montana extension agents and 4-H volunteer leaders during the Montana 4-H Horse & Livestock Leaders’ Forum on Jan. 28-30 in Helena.

To reach this goal, he suggested farmers and ranchers: have an ethical obligation to care for animals raised for food; recognize animal well-being is critical to providing quality food products; and recognize care should be the highest priority for both large and small farms.

Over the past 80 years, Paterson explained, there has been a dynamic change in the profiles and backgrounds of consumers. Those consumers today range from the aging members of our society (born between the early 1900s-1940s) to Baby Boomers (born from 1950s-1960s) to the 1970s Gen X population and onto the Generation Y population that has entered the marketplace in recent years.

Although each age group shows certain common characteristics and attitudes, they all have migrated to today’s environment of instant communications that features the use Facebook, MySpace Twitter, Blackberry, iPod and Droid phones, e-mail, Web sites and blogging.

Through these social media and digital communications tools, a huge percentage of the population stays tuned in to a wide variety of issues regarding animal welfare, food safety and the environment practices on an ongoing basis, he said.

Consumers are concerned about factory farm production and wonder if animals are mistreated and if they contribute to global warming, according to Paterson’s research. They also wonder if beef is safe to serve to their families and if eating beef increases their risk of heart disease and cancer, he found. The concerns, of course, are the very ones that the critics of animal agriculture have expressed through social networks.

Paterson said in 1984, consumers wanted taste, convenience, nutrition, variety and affordable prices from beef. In 2009, surveys showed they wanted those same benefits plus the social causes of the environment, sustainability and animal welfare. Ninety-five percent of consumers favor conventional (traditional) foods while five percent favor lifestyle foods which provide some form of political expression such as organic products or the lack of antibiotics.

Paterson said women account for 93 percent of food purchases and “feel a strong emotional attachment to beef” but they are confused about terms such as organic or sustainable. They seek emotional pillars such as trust to be reassured that farm families care about their animals and beef quality. They also want a freedom of choice to allow them to control their food-purchase decisions.

For today’s consumer “story beef” is now important, he said. Consumers want to know if the livestock producer lives nearby, properly cared for the animals, treats farm/ranch workers in a fair manner, practices environmental stewardship, operates sustainably and receives a fair price for the products they produce.

Today’s consumers thinks animal welfare means “humane” and “natural” and they believe that modern, intensive production systems are “unnatural” and “unhealthy.” A lack of information about modern rearing systems is promoting distrust of both producers and retailers, he said.

A survey by the Animal Welfare Institute showed that 68 percent of consumers wanted to know what farmers are doing to ensure animal care and another survey showed “humane” was the most often, top-ranked choice above locally grown. A survey by Ohio State University showed that 59 percent of Ohioans would be willing to pay more for meat, poultry or dairy labels as coming from humanely treated animals.

“For many of us, our mantra of animal management has been based on sound science that is publishable, peer-reviewed, statistically analyzed and repeatable but many believe that this argument missed the point,” he noted.

“The public isn’t demanding to know where food comes from; they have figured that out,” he noted. “However, the consumer is demanding to be assured that the people who produce their food can be trusted to care for animals and to use on-farm technology responsibly and sustainably.”

Go back to article