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Austin Alonzo, editor of WATT Poultry USA, examines hot topics surrounding the US poultry industry as it deals with a changing consumer, emerging animal welfare concerns and other disruptive challenges.
Poultry Processing & Slaughter / Broilers & Layers / North America / Industry News & Trends

A roadmap for poultry industry transparency on Dr. Oz?

A family eating a chicken dinner
The Dr. Oz show recently highlighted the chicken industry, and possibly provided a strategy for producers to reach out directly to consumers. | Monkey Business Images, Dreamstime

The chicken industry was highlighted on a recent episode of the syndicated talk show. Perhaps producers can learn from the experience and find ways to continue to communicate directly with consumers.

October 6, 2017

Cheers to The Dr. Oz Show for standing up in support of the US poultry industry.

On September 20, the syndicated daytime talk show hosted by health celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz gave the poultry industry a major assist by providing a platform for transparency in homes around the country. The show broke down what exactly goes into a chicken, how birds are raised and processed and even featured an executive panel – dubbed the “chicken summit” by the eponymous host – not unlike what one might see at a poultry industry convention. Executives from Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods and Bell & Evans answered questions on topics consumers are concerned about: food safety and industry transparency.

The episode, which can be viewed online here, started off with a question that’s getting traction in Europe and crossing over to U.S. consumers: the use of chlorine in chicken processing. It thoroughly quashed any concerns people might have about chlorine use, exposed the international trade-related background of the chlorine issue, and even explained how some companies are moving away from using the chemical in their plants.

Along with putting executives right in the viewer’s home, the show allowed viewers to tour a Perdue hatchery and a broiler barn outfitted with windows and engagements while highlighting the animal welfare improvements tied to these changes. It was not perfect, as the show did feature an interview with the editor of a trade journal for chefs, Cook's Illustrated, that claimed antibiotic residue can be found in chicken meat. It can’t because that’s illegal.

The most important message, in my mind, came from Oz at the end of the chicken segment. He said the piece was deliberately titled “In defense of American chicken,” and he recommended his viewers continue to eat chicken because it’s a good source of lean protein and safe to eat.

He said his show and its viewers are pushing the U.S. food industry by demanding truth, trust and transparency from all food producers, and he complimented the industry for making chicken as healthy as it’s ever been. However, he said the industry needs to go one step further by going antibiotic-free across the board. A tall order, and still a controversial suggestion in some corners of the broiler industry.

Oz is not wrong in saying that food consumers are pushing the industry to change like never before. Transparency is a paramount issue for consumers and companies alike. The host, and his production staff, should be complimented for choosing to provide a platform for some of the biggest companies in the industry to speak directly, more or less, with consumers. Perdue, Tyson and Bell & Evans deserve praise too, for getting up on stage and speaking in plain language about an industry that’s still mysterious to a majority of consumers.

Although the information presented in the episode wasn’t groundbreaking for readers of WATT Global Media, it pulled back the curtain on the industry and gave it a chance to speak for itself. Consumer research shows that people want to hear the story directly from the people behind their food. Maybe this brief moment of television can provide a good roadmap for how the industry can open up more lines of communication with consumers – and gain more credibility with the people making the shopping decisions.

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