Consumers’ sustainability priorities shift during pandemic

As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, sustainability is still important to meat and poultry consumers.

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Kim Stackhouse-Lawson (Colorado State University)
Kim Stackhouse-Lawson (Colorado State University)

As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, sustainability is still important to meat and poultry consumers.

But there has been a change in sustainability priorities for consumers, Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, said on October 7 during the webinar, “Animal Protein Sustainability: Separating Fact from Fiction,” hosted by the National Restaurant Association.  

Stackhouse-Lawson, who at the time of the webinar was JBS USA director of sustainability, said consumers are trying to do the right thing, and eat food produced by companies with good sustainability practices. When “sustainability” first entered the conversation between agrifood companies and protein consumers, environmental concerns were high on the priority list. But that has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

After industry supply chain issues occurred due to COVID-19-related staffing shortages at meat and poultry plants, JBS USA obtained feedback that a resilient supply chain has become very important to consumers and other stakeholders, said Stackhouse-Lawson, who was just named Colorado State University's Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative.

Likewise, the pandemic’s effects have made team member health and safety matters important to consumers as well as the welfare of the animals raised for food.

“A resilient supply chain, team member health and safety, and animal welfare are actually coming in easily as 1-2-3 as the most important thing to our stakeholders, and that water and climate change are in many cases a distant 4 and 5, and in some cases a distant 15th and 16th.”

Stackhouse added that she is confident JBS will adapt to addressing whatever sustainability issues arise in a post-COVID-19 world.

“I expect the sustainability space to really shift, post-Covid. I think we’ll be OK. I think sustainability is one of those topics that’s incredibly flexible and hopefuly we’ll continue to be really focused on providing value in the way of really connecting people, connecting relationships, doing things for the right reasons,” she said.

Eric Mittenthal, vice president of sustainability, North American Meat Institute (NAMI), also spoke during the webinar.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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