In May 2015, a panel discussion held at McDonald’s Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois, exposed some of the misconceptions or lack of information some consumers have, such as the reasons antibiotics are used in animal agriculture and the difference between antibiotics and vaccines.
Seven panelists, men and women ages 24-44, of diverse ethnic backgrounds, were chosen to participate in the panel. They each were the primary grocery shopper in their households, all from the Chicago area, and look for one or more of the following labels when they shop: antibiotic free, hormone free or cage free.
The consumers on the panel expressed that they want to know what chemicals and antibiotics are used in their food, and would like all “-free” foods to be labeled as such. They said the more labeling they see, the more they trust the companies and the more informed decisions they can make.
Recently, speaking at IPPE 2016, Trent Loos, a Nebraska rancher who calls himself the voice of rural America, said, “The consumer is leading us down a very dangerous path. We can either cave in, such as the United Kingdom has done, or put our feet down and show the consumer what we have accomplished with American agriculture.”
Loos told the audience that agriculture has to find a way to find a balance between public perceptions and reality. The fact that most people have no contact with agriculture or much understanding of food production is letting the anti-agriculture faction's message take hold.
Loos cited consumer misconceptions about hormone use in beef and chicken production, and consumer concerns and beliefs about antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance. He said everyone working in agriculture needs to take on the challenge of educating everyone they meet on the real facts.
Consumers are looking for more information on their food labels and more transparency from food companies, according to a consumer panel discussion.