By Ron Gibson, Utah dairy producer
When my wife and I go to the grocery store, my favorite thing to do is to go to the meat and dairy aisle and see what next, crazy thing they are putting on the label: free-range turkey, antibiotic-free, all natural, rBST-free, organic, grass-fed beef, and 100% hormone-free.
It sometimes makes me wonder who the consumer is and how we tell them the real story. After this great recession, we all might look at food and the necessities of life with a different view. I think people today are doing everything they can to make their dollars stretch as far as possible. The manager of the dairy case at our local grocery store says organic milk sales are very soft now.
Although I believe there will always be a place for niche markets, we need to stand together and support our product. Milk is milk! We have done so much harm in the past by making the public believe that my milk is better than your milk because . . . you use rBST and I don’t . . . we sing to our cows and you don’t. . . my cows live on pasture and yours don’t. . . we drive John Deere tractors and you don’t....
We as producers know better. How can we expect the media and consumers to understand when we are telling them lies?
People trust farmers. That is the truth. The California Milk Advisory Board is on track with getting the message out that the milk that shows up in your grocery store is from farm families that care about their animals and you. The rest of the nation needs to follow suit. Our check-off money needs to be used to positively portray the truth about dairy farm families all over this nation.
One thing is for sure in our industry: We will have challenges. Let’s just work together to help solve our problems without hurting other dairymen.
When we think of the consumer, think of your neighbor that you go to church with, or the one you sit by at the school program when we go watch our kids, or the people in town who sell us our tires. Do we talk to the people we know? Do they know how we feel and why we do what we do? How long has it been since we invited the whole community out for a hamburger fry? Do we offer tours for our local elementary school so that the children can actually see where milk comes from?
The Internet can be great, but there can sure be a lot of negative junk on it about what we do. We can make a difference by reaching out to others wherever we are and telling our story -- the one we want them to hear: the truth. That is how we win.