A few thoughts by John Nalivka: What happened to the trust factor?
We see it as a growing trend – consumers wanting to know everything about their food including answers to where, what, and why. Developing a good relationship with your customer has always been a priority to any successful business. Agriculture is certainly not any different. And while the number of consumers asking these questions is by no means the majority, the media covering food industry topics has definitely given them top billing. And while I see this as a trend, it may still turn out to be a fad. But, at any rate, it shouldn’t be ignored. I do have a couple of thoughts about this whole topic as it concerns ranchers.
First, I would note that while consumers (at least some) want to know all this information,ethey are seemingly not very trusting of you the rancher or farmer as the sole source of that information. Your information must be audited and verified by an outside source. In some respects, that level of “trust” doesn’t even equal that of buying a $50,000 pickup. I doubt if anyone takes that new pickup to an independent auditor to verify everything that the dealer tells you about it! So, perhaps, we need to promote the idea that the rancher or farmer who starts the process in the food industry supply chain is trustworthy and is the best person to tell you how he or she produces food.
This brings me to my second point. If consumers truly want to know how you produce the food they eat, this presents a great opportunity to educate and tell your story. While I understand there is still some reluctance by many in the industry to open the door to scrutiny by the public, it can work to your advantage. Lack of knowledge can often lead to lack of trust and speculation and you have the opportunity to provide the best information.
I often relate the story of the couple who stopped to watch while we were branding calves a few years ago. We were wary at first since we were heeling the calves and my first thought was PETA. However, that was not the case. The couple was from Germany and had been traveling the Pacific Northwest on vacation. They said that was the best part of their entire vacation. That was good public relations in anyone’s book! Find or create the opportunity to tell your story.
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It’s been a productive and busy few weeks for us. Along the way we’ve had a few eyebrow raising moments.