By Kristy Nudds
Each time a poultry organization or group in North America releases the results of a consumer survey,
Results consistently show that the facts about chicken production are unknown to the average consumer, or at the very least, misunderstood.
The National Chicken Council in the United States recently released results from a survey it conducted with consumers in September 2015 (see page 6).
The survey found that the majority of respondents (78 per cent) believe chickens are genetically modified; 77 per cent believe chicken contains added hormones or steroids; 73 per cent believe antibiotics are present in most chicken meat; and more than two-thirds (68 per cent) believe most chickens raised for meat are raised in cages.
The myths surrounding hormone and antibiotic usage have been persistent, which is concerning. The fact that the majority of consumers polled feel that chickens raised for meat are kept in cages and are genetically modified is very indicative of how hot-button issues can permeate.
Despite efforts by industry over the years to combat such misinformation, it’s obvious that the message isn’t always hitting the mark.
Why is this happening? Is it the way information is being presented to consumers? The poultry industry in Canada and the U.S. have done a good job of providing more information on rearing practices and have increased transparency in recent years by “opening the barn door” and offering a glimpse of life on the farm.
The National Chicken Council (NCC) has expanded on this concept with it’s new website, ChickenCheckIn (www.Chickencheck.in.). The website offers more than I have seen in the past with respect to how chickens are raised, from farm to table. What’s interesting about it is that it doesn’t avoid some of the more difficult topics, such as transportation to slaughter, that other poultry groups have been hesitant to tackle.
Tom Super, spokesperson for the NCC said in a release that “we know it’s on us as an industry to do a better job of providing more information on how our food gets from farm to table” and the purpose of ChickenCheckIn is to “invite consumers with open arms to come and take a look at the work we’re doing to progress as an industry in providing safe, healthy and sustainable food.”
Consumers can easily navigate infographics showing how chicken is raised on the “farm to table” page, and can watch videos on the “day in the life” page on topics such as feeding, biosecurity and health, housing, and transportation to processing.
It’s an excellent effort, but the challenge now is to make sure that consumers know it exists. As Super explained when the website was launched, “food is an emotionally-charged topic, and with conflicting information readily available online and on social media, it’s understandable people
The focus of the poultry industry in 2016 should be to continue battling the myths of poultry production on social media, and perhaps take note of the NCC’s efforts and develop more transparent information that consumers want.