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David Sparks Ph.d AAA Stakeholders Summit
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: May 15, 2017

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The 2017 Stakeholders Summit is bringing together animal agriculture to talk about ways attendees can connect and engage to share how “resilience reigns in agriculture.” The first day of Summit kicked off with eight consumers joining the stage to share their food purchasing decisions at restaurants and how animal welfare is on the menu in front of more than 260 farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, industry professionals, nutritionists and other advocates for animal agriculture. Don Phipps from Applied Marketing Research moderated the conversation which revealed price, location, convenience, friend recommendations, social media, coupons and if the ingredients are local all play a role in the decision-making process. Once Phipps directed the conversation towards animal welfare, a mix of views were shared about how the panelists feel livestock and poultry are raised on farms. While some panelists had questions and concerns about how animals are raised and processed, others had a positive view of farmers and ranchers. “Providers” was a word used to describe farmers by one panelist which was echoed by others sharing how they are “grateful for what they [farmers] do, appreciate it and that it’s not for everyone.”

 The insights from the panel discussion set the stage for Summit speakers to talk about how misconceptions are introduced and how to engage in the conversation. On the next panel, Leah McGrath, corporate dietitian with Ingles Markets and Amber Pankonin, dietitian with StirList.com, addressed common myths about food and how to effectively engage to help dispel the misconceptions. “There is an overwhelming amount of marketing to fear-based concerns,” said McGrath. “We need to talk people down off this fear ledge.”

 Focusing on the “moveable middle” along with listening, finding a common value, asking permission and then sharing your story and the science is how to effectively communicate with consumers according to Pankonin. The topic of marketing weaved into the next panel with Phil Stayer, corporate veterinarian with Sanderson Farms, Jack Hubbard, chief marketing officer with American Humane and JoDee George, group leader with Bader Rutter emphasizing how brands can market their product without disparaging others. Stayer shared several of Sanderson Farms’ commercials using humor to debunk myths about antibiotics and hormones. According to Stayer, Sanderson Farms is focused on being “honest and transparent” in their marketing strategy instead of pushing misleading label claims.

 Hubbard emphasized the importance of certification groups being science-based and having attainable goals. He said American Humane believes in animal welfare, not rights and that you should research the agendas behind groups before making partnerships. “It’s a weakness if you have to use disparaging marketing tactics,” said George. “It’s a signal that your marketing strategy isn’t strong enough.” Next, Nina Teicholz, investigative journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, delved into more myths about nutrition and food focusing on saturated fats, meat, butter and cheese. “It’s a confusing diet world out there,” said Teicholz who was a vegetarian for two decades before researching the health benefits of meat, butter and cheese. There are “mass hallucinations” that beef and dairy products are bad, “but these foods are good and wholesome and there is no shame in raising them.”


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