For each issue of Canadian Poultry magazine, I give our production team several pictures that relate to the cover story and we sit down and discuss the photo options and the article. It’s often not easy to find photos that convey the story perfectly, but we try to have something relevant.
Taking photos inside of commercial poultry barns is tricky and requires a lot of equipment that I don’t have, and let’s face it there are only so many ways to photograph chickens in a barn. So, often I rely on stock photography.
Stock photography websites offer plenty of different options. In addition to photos of chickens, there are many photo options available to show a “concept” if you dig deep enough. For this month’s cover story (see page 10) I tried to show “growth” in the poultry industry in a generic form, without focusing on one specific driver. I gave the production team photos of a car dashboard (to show “driving”) and arrows on a graph to show growth. A bit of a stretch maybe, but I thought it could work with the right image.
Well my first attempt didn’t hit the mark but it brought up an interesting point about consumer perception.
Since the cover story discusses not only what’s driving growth, but how these drivers will allow growth to be sustainable, one of our production artists suggested a photo of chickens in loose housing or in a group outside, because in her mind, this type of production is “more sustainable.”
This was an innocent comment from someone who hasn’t had to sit through a multitude of cover meetings with me explaining why these types of photos are often inappropriate for many articles (she’s fairly new to the publishing company). Yet, her innocence is very telling of how an average consumer envisions what poultry production should look like.
This is matched by a recent survey reported by the Western Producer. Commissioned by Alberta Farm Animal Care, the survey asked more than 750 people about their knowledge of farm practices and how it might affect their eating habits. While it’s not surprising the market research firm found that [people] are “fundamentally ignorant about farming practices and what goes into what they are eating,” it also identified the term “super farms” emerged in the survey, which respondents used to refer to “large corporate industrial farms.”
It’s not clear if a typical poultry operation where chickens are housed in a barn would be considered a “super farm,” but respondents felt these types of operations should be monitored for their effect on the environment, animal welfare and human health. Concern over how “industrial” farms could be impacting health was identified as an emerging issue, and that women were more likely to believe confinement housing had detrimental health effects.
This shows that in addition to animal welfare – the key focus area for consumer engagement efforts as of late – consumers are worried about environmental effects, and how they could affect their own health.
If poultry is going to continue in a sustainable manner, it’s not going to be achieved solely on the type of operation envisioned by our production artist. The industry needs to consider how to address the “look” of confinement housing from an environmental, and animal welfare point of view.