Yes, this is a blog from Italy! While visiting for a spring break tour of the food industry of the Tuscan Region, I have some thoughts that needed to be shared with my colleagues, producers and consumers in the US. I was seeing the markets in Florence and ran across a stand that was very similar to the HSUS and PETA campaigns in the United States. It instantly returned me to "Food for Thought" mode and inspired this blog. We also have two Californians on the trip with us and I believe the insight from this state(they do not have an apostrophe on Italian keyboards!) constituents, especially the few that vote for production agriculture, is very helpful in forming a front against activists of our industry.
Anyways, it leads me to an important topic that I plan on addressing as soon as I return to the states and that is changing things at Kansas State University. Specifically within the Animal Science Department, but it could be expanded to all majors that deal with the food industry in general. We need to have more opinion-provoking topics addressed in our lectures. Period. We need to have more lectures that involve teaching about very basics of our industry to help our students form their own opinions about what is going on today. Let me give you an example to help prove my point.
In a class that I will not name, that deals mostly with an industry I have little experience in, I point blank asked the professor how we defend the industry when looking at confinement type production practices versus looking at free-range type systems or pen housing. This was not unreasonable, I just needed background on what the industry can do to improve public perception. The professor answered matter-of-factly that he did not have a defense. I agree with not skewing lectures with opinions, but we are the minds that are being molded and Universities have to do their part. I need the opinions of my professors presented because I will take those and build my own. We need to tip on the edge of controversy so that students refuse to have no opinion on subjects that matter the most to our industry.
I apologize for the rant, but as the Italians might say - me scuzi! I just found that talking with a few of my fellow students coupled with running into an interesting anti-agriculture group in Italy, sparked a few ideas that we can improve on the "home front". What we as producers and future industry people can do to improve what the public perception is of our industry.