Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 17: Poor Marketing-How Do We Make It Stop?

I got a not so pleasant surprise as I was driving towards the highway this morning.         ------------>

I'm sure most of you have experienced the following sequence I am about to describe:

1st thought: Rip the sign out of the ground.

2nd thought: Would it be too inappropriate to call and ask exactly what DRUG-FREE means?

3rd thought: How do we make this stop?

Now I understand you have to sell your product and that consumers like to know that their meat is "drug-free"....but ALL meat is drug-free. So what exactly does drug-free mean? Does it mean that your cattle were never vaccinated, never treated with antibiotics when they got sick, or what?

I had a sneaking suspicion that if I looked this farm up I would not like what else they had to say. It was no surprise that their Facebook page said their beef was drug and hormone free.

Why am I so concerned about this you ask?

Because statements and marketing gimmicks like this are what I fight on a regular basis. I give presentations to high schools and local community organizations and the end of the presentations always include slides on antibiotic use in livestock AND hormones. I stress that withdrawal periods on drugs (the amount of time necessary for the antibiotic to clear the system) are followed before an animal may go to harvest. The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) monitors and tests meat for drug residues. And as far as hormones? Every thing in the world has hormones. Meat has hormones, vegetables have hormones and your birth control has more estrogen than either the meat or vegetables.

From left to right: M&Ms represent nanograms of estrogen in a single birth control pill, a baked potato, a
 steak from a steer treated with growth-promotants, a steak from an untreated steer. (Borrowed from Mike Martz)

Borrowed from Joan Ruskamp 

Was Drug-Free the best wording choice they could have made? I guess it makes money, but continues to portray a negative image of Agriculture in general. A negative image of the big and the little guys.

There will always be the people who do not play by the rules: the individuals who do not feed their animals appropriately, who do not treat illnesses, who abuse their animals and give the majority of livestock producers a bad name.

My question is: How do we stop this marketing ploy? It hurts every single person in agriculture. It pits us against each other and even worse it allows for the continuation of misunderstandings about livestock and meat production.

Education is essential...but do we just need to educate the consumer? 

How do we make this stop? Even more so, should we start conversations with producers who persist in using phrases like Drug-Free? Or will they just not listen?

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