To help ensure that a poultry business is successful, all employers and distributors must be on the same team and be guided by the same values. Joe Forsthoffer, Perdue Farms corporate communications manager, says that the consumers also need to be considered part of that team.
However, in order to make them feel like part of the team, the US poultry industry must be more transparent, Forsthoffer said during the National Chicken Council Chicken Marketing Seminar on July 22.
"Consumers trust farmers. They love farmers, but they don't necessarily trust farming. They have a sense that modern agriculture doesn't quite qualify as farming anymore. If we're in the food business, and our consumers aren't trusting farming, they're never going to trust our products," said Forsthoffer. "Transparency equals trust. Somewhere along the line we literally shut the barn door, threw away the key and decided consumers don't really need to know where their food comes from."
However, the poultry industry and other sectors of agriculture producing a safe, healthy food supply. Most are doing so in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly manner while treating the animals with respect, and taking care of their employees and the communities they are located in.
If the consumers get that message, they will be much more likely to be on the same team, Forsthoffer said.
Doing so is especially important in today's era when information can spread instantly, Frosthoffer said. The poultry industry needs to not only act responsibly, but work hard to convey that message. Otherwise, others may spread a different message.
"Anyone with internet access has a printing press and a broadcasting network," he said.
With fewer people connected to farms, many people's images of agriculture are the ones produced by the industry's adversaries. Being transparent gives poultry producers an avenue to counter the criticism and have consumers on their side.
"You should have a team that includes your consumers, rather than to have to go back and say we really are good people," said Forsthoffer. "The partnership the whole food network has with the American farmer is unparalleled in the world. We need to start telling that story, be proud of who we are, be proud of what we do, and be proud of the way that we do it."