Consumers “Here’s Your Sign”

Bill Engvall is one of the most popular stand up comedians of our time. One of his most popular routines is “Here’s your sign.”  In the routine, Engvall describes people who ask questions to which the answers should be obvious; and, in the process, he shows these people to be stupid. With the tag “Here’s Your Sign,” Engvall then metaphorically gives these people a sign declaring their stupidity as a warning to others interacting with this person. He believes that stupid people should wear a sign so that we will know they are stupid and not rely on them for intelligent information. One of Engvall’s examples goes like this, “A couple of months ago, I went fishing with a buddy of mine, we pulled his boat into the dock, I lifted up this big ‘ol stringer of bass and this idiot on the dock goes, ‘Hey, y’all catch all them fish?’ ‘Nope – Talked ’em into giving up. Here’s your sign.'” Two recent surveys reveal that, when it comes to food, there are a lot of people who should be wearing signs.

A survey of young people in the UK showed a shocking, (Engvall would call it stupefying) lack of basic knowledge about food. For example, according to the survey, one in ten young adults think eggs come from wheat. One in five believes jam and marmalade come from cereal crops. A third of 16 to 23-year-olds do not know that eggs are laid by hens, and even more are unaware that bacon comes from pigs, the poll found. In spite of the findings, 43% of 16 to 23-year-olds told researchers that they considered themselves knowledgeable about where foods come from. (Sort of sounds like some food experts in this country.)


Here at home a new poll released by Consumer Reports shows that a majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics to be sold in their local supermarket. In fact, 86 percent of the consumers polled indicated that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket. More than 60 percent of respondents indicated a willingness to pay at least five cents per pound more for meat raised without antibiotics, and more than a third would pay an extra dollar or more per pound. The research showed that most American consumers think farmers pump their animals full of antibiotics and that these drugs pose a threat to human health, even though dozens of scientific research studies have shown that any threat to human health from antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production is negligible. Nevertheless, this is another battle that the livestock industry has already lost; last week the National Pork Producers Council advised its members that most antibiotics will be off the market in the next three years.


Yet, if you surveyed consumers and asked them if they would be willing to eat meat from sick animals, the majority would say no. So, how are we supposed to keep the animals healthy if we can’t treat them with drugs when they get sick? Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has launched a marketplace campaign that urges supermarkets to only sell meat raised without antibiotics. Consumers Union Director of Food Policy Initiatives Jean Halloran says they want supermarkets to tell their suppliers to procure only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics. She says we need to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals because they are losing their potency in people and leading to a major national health crisis. What Ms. Halloran does not understand is that the real crisis that is looming is an animal health crisis, not a human one. Ms. Halloran, “Here’s your sign.”


One British newspaper called the young people in the research study “food dunces.” While it is easy to joke about consumers lack of basic food knowledge, this ignorance has serious and dangerous consequences.  Even with the
“foodie” culture all the rage in some circles and two national television networks dedicated to food and cooking, when it comes to knowing where their food comes from and how it is produced most people are wearing one of Bill Engvall’s signs.


by Gary Truitt


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