Something farmers never had to worry about before was what consumers thought about food. However, Michele Payn, Indiana Holstein breeder author, and nationally known speaker on food and consumer issues, says what consumers think about food will be a major driver of the agriculture sector. “Whether we agree with it or not on the farm, the reality is there are dozens of examples of how the story around food is impacting what we are allowed to do on the farm,” she stated.
Payn sees one of the big battles in 2019 being around food labels. She said, currently, there are too many labels on food products which confuses and misinforms consumers, “There are, on average, around 40,000 food products in a grocery store. It there are 5 labels or claims on each package that is 200,000 claims and labels we as consumers have to sort though.” She added the reality is people cannot deal with that many claims. She is especially critical of the absence labels that imply the product is better because it does not have something in it. Other label issues likely to be in the news in 2019 include what can be called “milk” and “meat.”
Payn says agriculture is doing a better job of responding to and being aware of consumer concerns but cautions we still have a long way to go. “I still see agriculture as being very defensive and not being proactive enough,” she stated. “There are practices in agriculture that are not scientifically based and do need to be re-evaluated. We also need to do a better job of listening, watching, and being engaged before it gets to a legislative standpoint.” She added that one of the best ways to accomplish this is for farmers to tell their story to consumers.
Payn is currently writing a book on food bullying. This new book, expected late 2019, sheds light on bogus nutrition and environmental claims to help people recognize and stand up to the bullies. She is the author of two books: No More Food Fights! and Food Truths from Farm to Table, an IPPY bronze medal winner and Amazon #1 best seller.