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Feeling misunderstood? Vet urges producers to take action

Don’t blame consumers if they seem to have little understanding of modern poultry and livestock production.

“It’s not their fault and it is not intentional. It is just the way society has evolved,” insists Scott Hurd, DVM, PhD, an associate professor and director of Iowa State University’s food-risk modeling and policy lab.

For that reason, he adds, a farm’s everyday inputs like land, water, fuel and labor are lost on discriminating consumers peering into the meat case. To them, antibiotics or any technologies that promote efficiency are perceived as producer “greed” — not something that keeps their food safe, wholesome and affordable.

Hurd’s down-home advice for reversing this perception: “Do something about it!”

‘Profound impact’

For starters, he urges producers to engage local reporters. “The media [have] a profound impact on people’s opinions. If you can help them understand, in the smallest way…the care that goes into making the final product they buy in the grocery store, then you will have helped us all,” Hurd advises in his weekly blog at hurdhealth.com.

“If reporters experience the reality of farming and food production, they will be less critical,” he adds. “If they see and feel the human lives working to feed their own families as well as others, then food will not seem so strange.”

Food-industry strategist Frank Singleton agrees.  “One of the things we fail to tell people is that our families eat poultry products, too.  Poultry is produced in partnership with a lot of players up and down the supply chain, but everybody’s a consumer at the end of the day,” he says. “If you can make that point, and make it in a human way, you can make a measurable difference in public opinion.”

Posted on July 1, 2014

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Shifting downtime to 2 weeks can significantly reduce S. Heidelberg loads in poultry litter, according to a research microbiologist with the USDA. Adapting litter management could also limit the presence of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in the barn.

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