Consumer feelings about antibiotic use in meat and poultry production may not always be fact-based or accurate, but those feelings must still be respected by meat and poultry producers, Joe Forsthoffer, director of corporate communications, Perdue Farms, said. Speaking May 8 at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholder Summit, Forsthoffer said consumer opinions, including those regarding antibiotics, are a large driving factor in the food industry.

“If we don’t respect the feelings of consumers and other stakeholders, they’re not going to respect us. What we’re finding is we can’t speak to them as if we’re arguing policy issues. Even if their feelings aren’t rational, they’re still valid as feelings,” said Forsthoffer.

The summit largely revolved around the millennial generation and its views on food production, including animal antibiotic use. Forsthoffer, admittedly not a millennial, recalled that during his youth he had a special fondness for Tang and for TV dinners. While those food products were not the most wholesome or nutritious, they still held a special place in his heart. Many consumers have a similar attachment to chicken raised without antibiotics.

In response to the demand for chicken raised without antibiotics, Perdue produces antibiotic-free brands Harvestland and Coleman Natural.

“It is an opportunity to build stakeholder trust in the way that we operate our business, and it’s an opportunity, equally importantly or more importantly, to increase consumer confidence in our products and build a higher level of trust,” Forsthoffer said.