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Remember This Name: Rexanna Powers, PhD

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The spring before I moved to College Station, Texas to begin my sophomore year of college, I met someone who changed my life forever. It wasn’t a guy (that didn’t happen until after I graduated with my bachelor’s and dropped out of graduate school). It was a girl named Rexanna Powers, someone who’s now one of my greatest friends in the entire world.

Rexanna and I met through a friend of a friend. She was graduating the following December with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and we immediately hit it off. She took me under her wing and showed me the ropes of college. 

Rexanna also inspired me to go to graduate school, after she got accepted into the graduate program at Texas Tech University. Although I didn’t go on to achieve my master’s or doctorate, a dream we both wanted to accomplish, she did –  and boy, did she do it big. 

Rexanna is now Dr. Rexanna Powers. She has her bachelor’s in ag communications, a journalism degree from Texas A&M, master’s from Texas Tech and her PhD from Louisiana State University. 

In other words: She’s an ag communications bad a**. I wish there was another term I could use to describe her, but it hits the mark, 100 percent.

So why should you remember her name? Well, because Rexanna is revolutionizing labeling laws in the U.S. Let me explain.

Rexanna and I bonded over a mutual nerdiness for ag communications and a love of pretty much anything girly. We would, and still can, talk for hours about agriculture in America and the disconnect consumers have with the industry. 

We’re passionate about communicating the agriculture industry, plain and simple. The way I pursue this passion is by writing this column every week; but the way Rexanna pursues this passion is by conducting research on this disconnect.

Rexanna’s research proves the points we in ag have been trying to make for years: Consumers don’t understand what many of the labels mean on the food they buy. They care about labels, but when they see a “cage free” label on a carton of eggs, they often picture the chickens laying the eggs and roaming around in some lush farm. When in reality, they’re in a laying house in the middle of east Texas.

There are simply less cages or enclosures with more amenities like nesting boxes and scratch pads to “exhibit natural behaviors” freedom related to animal welfare. So sure, they’re not in tiny cages, but they’re in a cage of some sort, technically.

To some extent, this disconnect is the consumers’ fault; they should do their research. At the same time, why should someone need to research the labels on their food?

To some extent, this is agriculture’s fault; we shouldn’t participate in slightly shady certification programs. At the same time, if agriculturists don’t participate in these programs, we aren’t able to sell our products, which would put us out of business and leave consumers with nothing on grocery store shelves.

To the full extent, I believe this is the government’s fault for passing laws allowing misleading labels. And I’m not the only one who believes this. 

This is such a hot topic in ag. It’s why people go through the trouble of making these laws in the first place. It’s why Rexanna spent years of her life getting a PhD – so she can make the ag industry better and provide research to change these laws.

I spent the past weekend celebrating my good friend Rexanna at her bachelorette party. She’s getting married in October to the man of her dreams who supports her cause fully. Per usual, in the middle of all the glitz and glam, we found some time to nerd out.

Rexanna told me she’s meeting with the National Egg Board soon to present her research. Now, you may be a cattleman, pig farmer, sodbuster, etc., but this meeting should interest you. Rexanna’s research may be focused on labeling within the egg sector, but her findings and methods could spark one heck of a fire across the entire agricultural industry. 

But don’t take my word for it – take American scientist Dr. Temple Grandin’s. She went out of her way to be an advisor for Rexanna’s doctoral dissertation because she believes in Rexanna’s cause.

I’m really proud of my friend, and I think she should be on every agriculturists’ and consumers’ radar right now, because she’s about to shake up the grocery store experience. 

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