A panel of five industry leaders addressed the difficult challenge of the poultry industry building consumer trust during a 1.5 hour webcast presented by WATT Global Media and Zoetis Global Poultry on April 10. While historically the public has had a high level of trust in the poultry industry, Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president, Food Safety, Quality and Live operations, Perdue Farms, says the problem is the consumer’s memory is short. “All consumers remember is the last problem,” he says. He says Perdue gets over 2,000 inquiries a month from consumers that are cataloged and analyzed. “The subset of those inquires that have to do with food safety issues has gone up a third in the past year."

When it comes to food safety, the panel members agreed that consumers see the use of hormones, growth promoters and antibiotics as one topic. “We will see more and more attention paid to antibiotics, but sick birds have to be treated. We have to satisfy legislators that we know what we’re doing in antibiotics,” says Alan Sterling, director of marketing, Wayne Farms.

The image of the poultry industry as secretive factory farms doesn't help either, according to the panel. All saw a need for more transparency to show the public that birds are treated humanely and in good living conditions.

“We have to explain why modern raising and processing was developed, and how it is safe, humane and productive,” says Rich Kottmeyer, managing director of Strategic, a food, agricultural and retail consultancy. “We have to tell that story. If we do it well we can change the conversation in a year to a year and a half."

In the wide-ranging discussion, the panelists also talked about the need for more standardized labeling, the dangers of relying on consumers understanding science, the impact of the Veterinary Feed Directive, consumer trust in veterinarians and a range of other topics.

 

The entire webcast can be viewed. All that’s required is a quick registration. 

View the video in sections

Part 1: Should consumers trust the US poultry industry?   

Part 2: What are the toughest food safety issues facing the poultry industry?

Part 3: How does the industry respond to consumer concerns?

 

The panelists