Feature Industry, Industry ARCHIVES

The Glass House

“It’s ironic that even as a vast majority of the population becomes

increasingly disconnected with how livestock production actually works, people are becoming more interested in the ethics involved.”

For over a century our industry has gone about business pretty much regulating itself. We produced a product for our customers who purchased it with trust and acceptance. It was a symbiotic relationship albeit, production orientated in nature. It was a time when our domestic customer was ethnically uniform, valued food (post war) and had some sort of relationship with the farm community. Nary a thought was given to origin, production and processing methods and everything else involved in producing beef. That business model is history today, and our new model is market driven, more competitive and very transparent. Welcome to the glass house.

Adding to the nature and complexity of marketing protein today, we have what are essentially enemies of our industry. They come in a variety of packages, small, medium and large. They’re called activists, special interest groups and lobbyists who together have mandates to change our industry or do away with it all together. Their preferred choice of weapon is traditional and social media and their target market, our customers. The customers today have to separate the wheat from the chaff, truth from fiction and in no uncertain terms are confused with the never ending volume of messaging – pro and con. 

Winning and maintaining the hearts and minds of the consumer today is a daunting task and one that is unique in the world of marketing given the introduction of social media. In this brave new world, between the speed of change and effectively meeting negative publicity head on (which there is plenty) and implementing pro-active game plans collectively makes for a challenging playing field. One too, where the rules seem to change as the game goes on.

From retail grocers to primary producers, when it comes to communicating our message(s) everyone in the food chain seems engaged and involved. From grassroots classroom education programs, to the more grandiose efforts such as pro-beef groups that lobby Hollywood stars, to industry group barbecues, bloggers and YouTube movies, one thing is for certain – there’s no shortage of energy, enthusiasm and money being channeled to promote our great product.

Central to both pro and con camps is social media. It’s doing today what Gutenburg did some 500 years ago with the invention of the printing press. Just last year it was reported that over 125 billion minutes were spent on the various platforms, of social media. With that many eyeballs focused on a phone or computer screen there’s no question of the impact this medium has on shaping perceptions. Like everyone involved in the food industry today, we have to operate with a social license. It’s fair to say social media is a canary in the coal mine but, unlike that industry ours is not going under so to speak. Someone once said and it should be repeated, “Social media changes the relationship between companies and customers from master and servant to peer to peer.” In the ongoing battle for market share and sales, there is no disputing that the bulk of the worlds population holds beef and other proteins in high regard. Hence a great foothold and/or position for our industry to build and grow upon. In this issue we bring you a variety of stories and various insights and approaches being taken in this battle for market share and consumer loyality. Perception is reality and particularily today, in this Brave New World. 

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