AAA Hears Consumer Panel Opinions On Meat Labels

The Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2019 Stakeholders Summit kicked off Wednesday with record attendance, bringing 335 food and agriculture stakeholders to Kansas City, Mo., said an AAA release.

The event, themed “A Seat At The Table,” started with consumer focus groups.

Six consumers were asked about their meat purchasing habits, including how much price, taste, appearance, animal welfare, antibiotics and labeling claims mattered.  The consumers agreed taste, price and appearance were important but had differing opinions when it came to animal welfare and antibiotic use.




A key theme from the panel discussion was trust in labels with most of them feeling wary of label enforcement and the meanings behind different labels.

Some said animal welfare was a main driver in their purchasing decisions.  Others agreed it was important but wasn’t top-of-mind.  Several mentioned they relied on the retailers to source humanely raised meat and poultry products.

When asked if antibiotic use labels had an effect on purchasing decisions, some panelists said they realized that what goes into the animal eventually affects their health, so they preferred not to have them.  However, they were eager to learn more about why antibiotics may be used and the different types that were used in livestock production.

Donald Ritter, DVM, director of technical marketing at Mountaire Farms Inc., said current meat labels were confusing and discussed the new One Health Certified program and its potential for clearer labels.  The purpose of One Health Certified was to reduce consumer confusion and take care of the animals in a responsible and sustainable way.




Next, a panel of beef industry leaders took the stage to discuss sustainability.  Kristen Parman, vice president of membership services at the Livestock Marketing Association introduced the Beef Quality Assurance program and the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef as two examples of collective efforts to provide consumers with high-quality beef.

Debbie Lyons-Blythe, rancher at Blythe Family Farm, said, “take care of the land, take care of the animals, take care of the people and make money,” is how she defined sustainability.

“If you don’t make money, you’re not a sustainable business,” Lyons-Blythe said.  She appreciated engaging with USRSB because of the importance put on getting grassroots input from producer organizations and individual ranchers like herself, instead of the traditional top-down approach.

Justin Nelson, vice president of cattle procurement at Tyson Foods, explained sustainability was about having a business model that allowed companies and farms to operate for years and provide a product people love while simultaneously protecting the environment.

Each panelist was asked how to communicate effectively about beef sustainability.  Parman said, “tearing down the walls and letting people come in.  Not being afraid to have a dialogue and tackle the misinformation.”

Lyons-Blythe added, “it’s all about respect” and was careful to avoid using the term “educate” as it should be more of a conversation with the public.

Nelson ended the session by reiterating how transparency was key and “seeing is believing,” recommending attendees invite retailers to their operations.




Cash cattle trading was reported this week at $120 to $121 per cwt on a live basis, down $3 from last week.  Dressed-basis trading was reported at $195 per cwt, down $5.

The USDA choice cutout Wednesday was down $0.86 per cwt at $223.01, while select was off $4.34 at $207.49.  The choice/select spread widened to $15.52 from $12.04 with 140 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Tuesday, was $136.57 per cwt, down $0.10.  This compares with Wednesday’s May contract settlement of $135.77, down $1.52.