Temple Grandin encourages transparency in food production practices
Fort Collins, Colo. – Temple Grandin, animal science professor at Colorado State University, spoke at the International Livestock Forum in Fort Collins, Colo. on Jan. 13 about transparency in agriculture.
“If we don’t show our story, it’s going to get shown for us,” she stated.
Some projects under development, pricing information and customer lists with confidential personal information shouldn’t be shared, she explained. Otherwise, secrets don’t benefit the industry.
“Once something is out and being used, we have to show it,” she said.
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are one example that she cited, noting that the public never received good information about why Roundup-ready crops can be beneficial.
“It’s too bad that the first GMO plant was not golden rice – rice with vitamin A. If that had been the first one, rather than Roundup-ready crops, the public would have had a better opinion of GMOs,” she commented.
She added that consumers didn’t even know about GMOs for a number of years, but they became upset when they learned about them.
“Consumers don’t like surprises,” Grandin said.
That was the problem with the pink slime debacle, according to Grandin. Consumers don’t understand finely textured beef.
“The doors should have been thrown open to that big, beautiful factory,” she explained.
If finely textured beef isn’t used as a product, whole truckloads of beef protein are taken to the landfill each day.
“That’s not a very good thing to be doing. On the other hand, it should have been on the label,” she commented.
In another transparency example, Grandin cited an undercover video created by an animal rights group.
“They had to look pretty hard for a few chickens that probably needed to be culled and then took pictures of four or five grotesque chickens, but they never showed the rest of the barn,” she explained.
Her suggestion was to hold an open house at that chicken house.
“We’ve got to be opening up the door,” Grandin said.
A survey from Purdue University stated that 31 percent of millennials have never been on a farm. Two years ago, a study in the United Kingdom found that 50 percent of people under the age of 25 couldn’t connect pigs with bacon.
“There was also a high percentage of people who thought beef was made out of wheat,” she added.
At a large indoor pig barn that allows public visitation near Chicago, Grandin asked what the most common, weird question is from guests.
She quoted the answer as, “Are those real pigs?”
Removed from ag
“We are talking about a generation today that is totally separated from agriculture,” she noted.
She is also concerned about the public perception of grazing.
“We also have to explain to the consumer how grazing can be good for land,” she said.
Cattle can graze land that can’t be used for other crops and properly managed grazing can improve the health of the land.
“If we throw all of the ranchers off of that land, then no one is going to maintain the water sources,” she added.
She stressed the necessity of communication.
“Consumers trust farmers more than they trust scientists. We need to be getting more people doing blogs. We’ve got to communicate,” she said.
Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.