The recent flurry of opinion and debate regarding dairy calf rearing has once again highlighted the significant gap between vegans and some food producers. The Guardians "Dairy is Scary" article offered a particularly polarised opinion piece which infuriated Dairy farmers leading to some great examples of transparent communication.
Whilst the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world there will always be those who seek to shine a light on what they feel to be 'welfare abuse' in modern agriculture. Debate is healthy and no industry should feel beyond public scrutiny as this is what drives progress. But what is most apparent from the content of the (now slightly amended article) is the gap in public understanding about farming in general.
Consumers make informed choices daily with every purchase, but doing so requires a basic understanding of where food actually comes from. Communicating these messages through third parties such mainstream press, retailers and campaigners (on both sides) will of course result in some degree of bias and misrepresentation.
Thankfully there is resurgence in British farming and a new breed of farmer willing to communicate and tell their story, direct to consumers. Initiatives such as Open Farm Sunday seek to break down farming stereotypes. Replacing the age old grumble of 'get off my land' with a positive 'come and learn about my land'. Doing so stimulates public interest and opens the door (or gate!), but understanding doesn't just happen in one farm visit. It needs to be gradual and ongoing. Farming and food production is so far removed from many peoples lives it's going to take time to reconnect. Social media has provided the perfect medium to enable this, with strong farming personalities passionate about improving public understanding and willing to share bits of their daily life.
A few shining examples of farm transparency in recent days have been :
Kate Morris @farmuponthehill
Smart, modern farmers and food producers know their sustainability and economic survival requires consumers to understand and value what they do. The public want and need choice. Whilst there will always be two sides to every argument, there is nothing more fundamental in life than the choice about what you eat. It's essential that as an industry we help consumers make informed choices without undue bias and misinformation.
In our own small way I hope that BatchSeed will take this one step further allowing food producers to connect and sell to consumers who want to engage with how food is made whatever their dietary choice.
If you'd like to be part of the first group of producers to help us perfect our platform do get in touch without cost or obligation.