Yesterday as we vaccinated cattle on our operation a thought came to me. The various false or persuasive marketing claims have been becoming more popular in the poultry and meat industry, confusing consumers and creating a demand for specialty products. Plant-based and lab-grown proteins are claiming to be meat on labels. The egg industry is being impacted by-products like JUST Egg, that don't contain any real egg.
So, my question is – how long will it be before the anti-vaxxers demand a poultry or meat product from an animal that hasn't been vaccinated?
Anti-vaxxers are people who oppose vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination in the use of humans, specifically young children. This trend has become very popular since a British doctor released a research paper in 1998 claiming that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine could be linked to bowel disease and autism. Even though in 2011 the paper was found to be fraudulent, some of the public's opinion has been destroyed. There were over 1,000 cases of measles in the U.S. between 2013 and 2015. According to the Measles and Rubella Initiative, most cases of the measles belonged to people who had not been vaccinated.
So why does all that matter to the meat industry? I have spent the last two years sitting in conferences that have discussed antibiotic-free production. I have also heard multiple talks on consumer demands and marketing tactics. I'm afraid that if we keep meeting the demands of our customers without educating people, they will eventually demand a product we can't provide.
What happens when our anti-vaxxer consumer becomes concerned with the idea that a vaccine may give chickens, hogs or cattle some sort of permanent health issues, like the ones they claim can result from human vaccination?
Perhaps, some consumers are already looking at lab-grown products as their alternative to a pure product they believe to be healthier, but I see nothing natural about a product of this nature.
As producers, how far are we willing to go? Will vaccination-free poultry or meat be the next ill-advised label claim?