The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way we look at the world, but it shouldn’t overshadow the critical importance of sustainability to our collective future.

Consumers, investors still focus on sustainability

At the American Meat Science Association’s recently held 66th International Congress of Meat Science and Technology and 73rd Reciprocal Meat Conference, Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, JBS USA’s director of sustainability, spoke about what sustainability means in a post-COVID world.

Although consumers – who may be trying to stretch their dollar further – are focusing less on value-added claims on the food they buy, the importance of sustainability in their decision making is not diminishing, she said. To the contrary, research indicates industry sustainability is more important than ever.

Stackhouse-Lawson said the meat industry was thrust into the spotlight during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and about a third of consumers walked away with a worse opinion of the meat industry than they did at the beginning of 2020 because of it. Those same consumers said they now prioritize resilient supply chains, worker health and safety, animal welfare, water usage and impact on climate change when dealing with meat companies.

Moreover, there is a massive shift in money flowing into operations investors view as sustainable which, she said, underscores that sustainability is good for business as well as public perception.

The challenge

Those in the poultry industry know the situation well. We live in a world with an ever-increasing need for food and an ever-decreasing supply of natural resources used to create it.

The COVID-19 situation, particularly in the United States, is a major cause of anxiety but – hopefully – with time it will pass. The need to feed the world and preserve the Earth’s resources for future generations will never go away.

Luckily for poultry, the industry’s sustainability story is a great one. It continues to produce more protein using less resources and, when compared with other livestock operations, it is the most sustainable animal protein.

I believe the poultry industry should continue to communicate with the public about its role in a sustainable future. Now, more than ever it appears, sustainability sells.

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