When three executives from companies in the meat and poultry supply chain participated in a panel discussion at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) Antibiotics Symposium, one might say they were in the hot seat – a high pressure situation in which a great deal of attention and scrutiny is focused on a person or an organization.
The issue of antibiotic usage in food production animals is emotionally charged and highly contentious, and in it these executives' companies have a lot at stake.
And while the NIAA symposium is designed to encourage dialogue and mutual understanding among diverse and competing interests in the debate over antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance, the scrutiny and pressure was on as the panelists made presentations and then answered questions for 45 minutes.
To the credit of the meat and poultry supply chain panelists, they made the case for balance in governmental regulation and industry practices and embraced the opportunity for transparency and engagement.
For a more complete story on the panel discussion, see the article "Poultry supply chain discusses antibiotics, consumer trust."
One focus was the need for transparency on the part of meat and poultry producers. But, Mike Morris of Yum Brands turned that focus inside out with the following comments:
“Transparency means more than just the issues that are popular with the meat and poultry industry’s critics. How few people in this country understand the absolute miracle that is modern agriculture! How many people understand the millions of acres saved every year because of the technology of concentrated animal feeding operations and all of the advances? How many people appreciate the dramatic reduction in the requirements for water? Modern agriculture is an absolute miracle from which every technological advance in the western world has grown. Few people know this. That’s a frustration because transparency only seems to be those practices about which the critic wants to shed light upon. I agree that we need to shed light and explain why we do things the way that we do. Transparency the other way is to help people understand the value of these technologies and modern food production. I would love to see it go both ways.”
The NIAA Antibiotics Symposium, which occurs annually, provides a unique and valuable forum for this kind of transparency and engagement.