Least Common Denominator? Come On, People!

Our turkeys continue to grow rapidly.  We transferred them from the brooder house to grow-out buildings.  It’s a slow, tedious job… we have learned over the years there is no magic formula for herding and moving four-week old turkeys. Creating the least amount of stress for the bird is paramount, and little details manner.  You just read what the animal needs and adjust accordingly.  As for the farm, our barn swallows are gathering for departure.  They arrived on April 7, and will be gone before Labor Day.  I estimate we had a dozen nests across the farm; at least 60 baby barn swallows have been born and brooded.  I am already looking forward to the arrival in early April 2012.  Beautiful, elegant creatures.  The flowers on the farm are blooming to near full zenith despite the hot and dry summer we are experiencing.  You can guess sizable effort into watering and bug control… Yet it is a diversion from the departing barn swallows.

We have initiated contact with various people and companies regarding Lacuna Technologies.  In such meetings, we present what we believe is a transformative feature of the Lacuna system–our ability to measure and assess the individual performance of each bird during the loading, transportation and unloading.  We believe that feature will be transformative for producers and processors, certainly, but also for consumers: translating individual bird performance into a consumer-friendly format—imagine an animal well-being equivalent to the nutrition facts panel—would empower consumers as never before.

A not uncommon response to our presentation is: “More information about animals will confuse the customer and create more problems.”  And: “A customer who knows too much about processing and live production causes more problems than a customer who is blissfully ignorant.”

In short, I realize some of us are comfortable addressing only the “least common denominator” …perceived consumer ignorance.  I, at times, scratch my head wondering, how much does the average Joe or Jane know, or care to know?  We all have our moments.  But treating the consumer as a soft-minded, ignorant lamb is diametrically opposed to my personal and professional beliefs.

More importantly, isn’t it true that some the most vocal anti-meat forces have been using this strategy for years—assuming the consumer is too ignorant or impatient to understand the detailed facts, and, in place of the facts, painting a compelling and emotion-driven version of reality?  We moan about the success of such approaches (Prop 2 California), yet our own attitudes about the consumer are arguably the flip side of the same coin. 

How much more powerful would it be to supply objective data to all stakeholders—from breeders to consumers—tailored to their individual needs?

In short, it is at best condescending (and, at worse, an opportunity cost) to classify consumers as insufficiently intelligent to make sound decisions about purchasing ethically raised meat.

To sum up my thoughts on this topic… I recently saw this quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

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