They say a picture tells a thousand words, and there was one image among the hundreds of slides and thousands of words presented at the 2016 Environmental Management Seminar which communicated what I believe is U.S. poultry producers’ single greatest opportunity.
Cara Watson, Sustainable Solutions Corporation, showed the picture in a talk about the basics of starting a sustainability program, but there is broader poultry industry relevance.
Pictured are the faces of 42 millennials, representative of the poultry industry’s future – its customers, employees, stakeholders and suppliers. The faces are aptly intent, inquisitive and expectant.
They want to know poultry’s story. They want to get it in a context that helps them determine whether they will buy your products or work for your company. They will influence your future as investors and regulators. Some may decide to support your businesses with their inventions, or defend it from anti-farming, anti-business radicals. All of this is still to be decided.
There is positive news here, couched in a challenge. Perhaps more than their predecessor generation, millennials are open to knowing about the poultry business; its products, practices and people. Yes, they have less connection to commercial farming than any previous generation, but millennials have an intensely focused interest and caring about things of social significance. Food is of intense social significance to them.
The opportunity is to tell your poultry story to them – whether it is how poultry producers are protecting the environment with Clean Water Award-winning wastewater treatment operations or responsibly using antibiotics to keep flocks healthy to deliver nutritious and affordable chicken and turkey to American families.
But there also is danger when the poultry industry’s companies and people shrink from telling their stories. While millennials are ready to make up their own minds about whether poultry is to be trusted – perhaps less reliant on external authorities – your transparency is crucial to shaping their beliefs and attitudes about poultry production. Without transparency on the part of the poultry industry, they will be guided only by what they learn from others who are willing to tell our story for us.
Millennials are open to learning the truth about poultry production from poultry producers. Don’t turn away from the responsibility to tell your story.