Consumer perceptions are changing. Since starting in this sector 30 years, ago, I’ve seen a huge shift towards ‘conscientious consumerism’, as transparency and sustainability become increasingly important in the choices we make.
Quite rightly, shoppers across Europe are asking questions about their food. But the concern for many at Tuesday’s EU40 panel debate is that they’re not getting accurate answers.
It was the latest in a series of debates which have brought together MEPs elected under the age of 40 to work towards a roadmap for sustainable livestock in Europe.
And an essential action set out in this roadmap is for the livestock sector to work together to confront some of the misconceptions about our work.
Nobody has said this will be easy; we live in a social media age in which dubious ‘facts’ can be circulated amongst millions in moment. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
As Clare Carlisle of AnimalHealthEurope told the panel, we need to elevate the positive story we have to tell.
She quoted Dr Jude Capper, the UK dairy farmer who launched the #Februdairy social media campaign: “As a scientist, I know we need five pieces of positive information to negate every piece of negative information”.
It’s a daunting ratio, and Dr Capper also points to a paradox in how we communicate as an industry; many of the positive stories about the livestock industry directly reference a previous negative story.
To put it plainly, we’re on the back foot here.
Clare is one of a growing number who believe we can take more ownership of the conversation by not just telling our story, but by making sure it resonates.
This isn’t about forcing a clumsy ‘pro-meat’ agenda; it’s about acknowledging how essential animal products are in feeding an ever-growing population.
It’s a narrative that makes it clear we in Europe have access to food that meets the highest standards of safety and quality.
As Birthe Steenberg , Secretary General of AVEC, European Poultry Producer Association put it: “It’s about a story that tells people why we’re proud to work in our industry.”
But how do we put this in practice? Carni Sostenibili (@SostenCarni) – an Italian platform that gives the public balanced information about livestock – may offer a model we can all follow.
Its communications representative Andrea Bertaglio told us the key ingredients for its success: transparency with its audience, the prominence science is given, and – most importantly – a feeling the sector is coming together to solve its collective problems.
It feels like the right time to ensure this happens at a European level. We are proud that Elanco is part of this journey.
Tags: Sustainability ,