From the Editor: Engaging with today’s consumer
Brett RuffellFeatures Consumer Issues
Janelle Cardiff, a producer representative with Gray Ridge Eggs, wants more producers to talk to people about farming and food. Here's how she's leading by example.
Have you ever had or observed an eye-opening conversation about farming and food and thought, we need to do more? Janelle Cardiff, a producer representative with Gray Ridge Eggs, posed this question to attendees at a Poultry Industry Council Producer Update this winter.
For myself, it was recent coverage of rising poultry prices. This winter, the usual suspects – many of whom are uninformed – pinned the blame for inflation on supply management, calling for it to be scrapped.
This even though there are a range of other factors driving up prices and supply management has helped protect Canadian from some of the effects of the pandemic and avian influenza outbreaks.
During her presentation on “Engaging with Today’s Consumer”, Cardiff cited one experience that emphasized for her the need for everyone in the poultry industry to up the ante on the communication front. “I was on a train and there were a couple of girls talking about how white eggs were actually bleached at the grocery store,” she recalled.
Cardiff, who in her role with Gray Ridge is a liaison between producers and graders, used her talk as a call to action. Her purpose was to encourage more producers to talk to people about farming and food.
This is important, she said, firstly because consumers are more removed from farming than ever before, and people don’t trust what they don’t know. “When I’m at the dentist, I’m able to ask questions and educate myself as to why things are a certain where,” she said. “Whereas many people don’t actually know a farmer anymore.”
People are also often unaware about where to get reliable information on farming and food. This leaves them vulnerable to misinformation on Google and social media. “Nowadays, anybody can be a journalist and have an opinion on something that they really truly don’t know a lot about,” Cardiff said.
Additionally, it’s important to inform people about their food because they aren’t always just consumers – they’re lawyers, politicians, and decision makers. Many of them have deeper needs than simply wanting to trust the food they’re eating. They need to be aware of how the poultry industry works.
Hoping to inspire her audience, Cardiff shared some of the interesting initiatives she’s worked on to help inform the public. Aside from her role with Gray Ridge, she’s also second vice chair with Farm & Food Care Ontario and a volunteer with Egg Farmers of Ontario.
For one project through the marketing board, she was featured in a one-minute video ad where she discussed the different housing systems egg producers use these days. She says the project only took her half a day. She’s also been interviewed for radio and television.
She urged producers to help with the industry’s communications efforts in whatever way they’re comfortable. For introverts, that could be simply sending some ideas to their marketing board.
In terms of topics, Cardiff highlighted the top five issues Canadians are worried about according to the most recent research from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. Unsurprisingly, the rising cost of food was the number one reason people think the food industry is headed in the wrong direction.
Cardiff said this presents poultry producers with a great opportunity to have an impactful conversation.
“We need to let them know why it’s not us the farmer – we’re not doing better than we were before. It was feed costs more; everything is costing more, which means that just goes down the chain.”
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