January should be the livestock industry’s opportunity to set the record straight, as others attempt to hijack the agenda, according to AHDB’s Will Jackson.
The first month of the year has been branded ‘veganuary’ by some in an attempt to promote the vegan lifestyle across social media and mainstream media channels.
But in a blog on the AHDB website, Mr Jackson, AHDB’s strategy director for beef & lamb, said: “There is a belief that the month is now ‘owned’ by those who follow alternative lifestyle choices and set out to convert others while spreading misinformation and mischief around livestock farming. But we are looking at this the wrong way.
“January should be seen as a huge opportunity to set the record straight, hold our heads high and shout about the positives of livestock farming in the UK. More eyes are on us than normal so let’s showcase what we do and how well we do it to keep this country eating a healthy, balanced diet.”
He cited recent research from AHDB showing that farmers are, by far, the most trusted link in the food supply chain – 71% of consumers agree with this, compared with only 6% disagreeing with the sentiment. The research also showed 62% of people feel positive about British agriculture, with only 5% negative towards it.
“This is what our industry should be taking heart from and look towards the new year positively – not feeling under siege from the tiny minority of the population who cut out all animal products from their lives,” he said.
In the last year, 98% of UK households bought red meat, while 99.8% bought a dairy product. “This is a higher number of households than bought loo roll! Our work with Kantar also reveals 78% of food consumption decisions are based on taste and enjoyment, something both red meat and dairy offer in spades,” Mr Jackson added.
Throughout January and February, AHDB will continue to use social media to push positive messages about our meat and dairy sectors, supported by advertorials in high-profile titles, and working behind the scenes with social media influencers like Spencer Matthews, who had more than 5 million views on the recipe videos he did for AHDB before Christmas.
High-profile advertising, including the pork TV campaign, which resumes on January 13 this month, will have nutrition messaging running through it to help set the record straight.
“We have a great story to tell,” Mr Jackson said. “We need to disrupt the rhetoric, like we did with the award-winning Department of Dairy Related Scrumptious Affairs dairy campaign, in partnership with DairyUK, reducing those in our target audience of young parents planning to switch to dairy alternatives by 14%.”
Among the myths that need to be debunked is the claim that farmers don’t take care of their animals. “It should also be clear that the UK has some of the highest welfare standards in the world. Some products sourced on the international markets lack the same levels of transparency within the supply chain,” Mr Jackson said.
He urged the industry to pull together and present a united front with consistent, evidence-based messaging.
“Throwing rocks at each other to score points only helps those who would seek to convert the bulk of the population to diets devoid of animal products.
“We need not waste time worrying about what those who are promoting alternative lifestyle choices are doing. We can be guilty of being oversensitive, so feel every time a negative comment appears on Twitter, the whole world is against us. They are not,” he said, stressing that the industry ‘shouldn’t need to speak to the noisy minority.’
“We need to speak to the silent majority who want to continue to enjoy our products as part of a healthy, balanced diet but need the permission to do so,” he added.
“To maintain trust, agriculture must review and sometimes adapt its practices to demonstrate where its values are shared with society’s. We can use our strengths as a springboard, use this month wisely and reclaim January.”
AHDB has produced a number of resources to help the industry promote the positive messages in January (see main pic). They can be viewed here