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What Do Consumers Really Want?

The Animal Agriculture Alliance held its annual stakeholders’ conference in early May in Washington, D.C. This is always an excellent conference that tackles myriad hot topics and important issues for poultry and livestock, as well as agriculture in general.

This year, organizers did something a little different to kick things off in a big way. They pulled together a panel of seven grocery shoppers from the Washington, D.C., area and asked them a few questions about food and agriculture. The kicker? The shoppers initially didn't know they would be sitting in front of an audience of farmers, ranchers, and agriculture representatives.

The results were fascinating. As Hannah Thompson, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, wrote in her weekly blog post for this week, “One of the biggest takeaways for me is that there is no ‘consumer.’  While it’s easy to make generalities, each individual grocery shopper has his or her own priorities and opinions. Even among our panel of seven, there were distinct opinions on buying organic, wanting to see more of the slaughter process, and which grocery stores were best.”

Thompson also noted that while there was little consensus about food and farming from the panel, the group did skew on the very skeptical side about our food system. According to Thompson, “Because of all the conflicting information they hear about food, they are left skeptical of most claims and information sources. In a word-association question, one panelist responded that the word natural was not necessarily a good thing, while another called the term free-range bogus.”

The good news: These panelists are hungry for information about where their food comes from, and they want to connect with more farmers via social media. (We, in agriculture, just need to break through beyond the choir to get to these folks!)

So what does this mean for farmers, ranchers, and those of us who are passionate about agriculture and food? It means that we must continue to put ourselves out there in whatever ways are comfortable for us. Here are some suggestions.

  • Do you love to write? Then a blog about your farm might be just the ticket. Or look to your local and state agriculture and commodity organizations to see if they have blogs. They may well be looking for guest posts.
  • Do you love social media? Then think about a Facebook page for your farm.
  • Do you like snapping quick photos or videos on your phone? Then Instagram is an ideal place to share those images.
  • Not into social media but are comfortable in front of groups talking about what you do? Then think about getting connected with civic organizations and school classrooms. Again, your state commodity organizations and programs like Agriculture in the Classroom can be a wealth of information for you on speaking opportunities.
  • Simply talk. Sometimes what seems like a simple conversation about farming with a friend or neighbor makes a bigger diference than you might think.

You can view the full panel discussion from the Animal Agriculture Alliance here (starting at about the 4:38 mark). It’s well worth a look-see!

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