Specialist tells farmers: ‘We have to do more’
When it comes to forming opinions on food, today’s consumers are at least a little confused, noted Dr. Paige Pratt, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grassroots development specialist.
“Products today are labeled and labeled and labeled,” Pratt told workshop participants at the 2018 VFBF Women’s Spring Conference March 17. “We’ve made it hard for people to understand what they’re buying, and some of that confusion could be our fault. We need to refine what we are saying so consumers understand,” added the cattle producer with a doctorate in animal science.
What consumers really want, Pratt explained, is safe, wholesome, nutritious food. She told the farmer audience to “market what the food has to offer. Don’t go against each other as producers. We need to focus on marketing and selling food on our own good merits, and not throw stones at different (production) methods simply to justify a higher selling point.”
She explained the meanings behind common labels on food, including grass-fed, natural, organic and made with GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. She noted that there have been 250 studies that show organic foods have very little nutritional differences from conventionally raised foods.
“Studies have shown a 30 percent lower pesticide residue on organic foods, but if you wash the item, there is no difference in pesticide residue,” Pratt explained. “In both ways of raising food, the food is within safety limits set by the FDA.”
She said GMOs could truly feed the world. “If we could get this technology into countries where people are starving, it could really do a lot of good.”
Pratt emphasized a need to provide honest, transparent marketing of foods. She also noted that farmers—especially those who raise meat animals—have to overcome a lot of misinformation. “Ninety-eight percent of Americans eat meat. We are the home team, but the vegans are beating us at our own game. We need to use some of their tactics.”
She said critics of diets that include meat, or certain agricultural practices, usually talk about the “why,” while farmers talk about the “what”—the product or practice itself.
“We have to do better with the ‘why.’ We have to do better with our advocacy. We have to step up our game.”