This blog came across meatingplace.com today. It really took the words right out of my mouth. I've made this same argument several times to friends and colleagues, albeit not as eloquently as the author, Dr. John Strak, an economist and editor of Whole Hog Brief. Here is the commentary in its entirety:
View from Across the Pond By: John Strak
Producers are out of balance
(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)
I drive a Ford. It’s a new car for the family this year and we took our time looking around the showrooms last summer working out which car would suit us best as a replacement for the nine year old GM people mover that had served my growing family well.
Before we decided what to buy we went into all the details about how the new car would perform, how economical it would be, and how comfortable it would be for all of us (including the dogs). My wife and I tried to balance all of these needs against the various car models and their costs. Nothing too surprising in this experience and one that many of you will recognize.
As it was the whole family that was the customer, my teenage daughter gave me valuable advice on the gadgets and accessories that the new car needed to make our iPods and iPhones and our other 21st century electronic paraphernalia work whilst we were on the move. And my teenage son had the fuel economy and CO2 emissions numbers set out in a league table of alternative vehicle choices.
The various car salesmen we saw in different showrooms were all extremely polite and patient as we described our multiple demands and tried out all the model options and then, finally, made a selection that gave us everything we wanted – the Ford. Even if the salesmen thought that our final choice of model or make was wildly wrong, or that our mix of gadgets and accessories and vehicle colour was a little eccentric, no-one ever said so. We were, after all, the customers.
Livestock producers are not strangers to car showrooms, or tractor and machinery dealers, or the ringside of pedigree livestock sales. In other words, producers are customers too. And when they make a deal on equipment, livestock, or feed I am sure that they expect the salesmen to be just as patient and polite as they were with me when I bought my new Ford.
Here’s my point. Why do producers not see that their customers -- the ones who buy their hogs and cattle, etc from them -- might also be a little, how should I say, fussy when they make a deal? Their customers ask for freshness, quality, taste and availability and, of course, low prices. Nowadays they are even starting to ask for traceability, country of origin, and something called “sustainability.”
When they are customers producers think, correctly, that they have the right to spend their money on what they want. What stops producers from seeing that they can’t be out of balance on this issue? As suppliers they have to listen to their customers – or risk losing them.
March 10, 2010
I think it is important that as agriculturalists-specifically producers- we remain critical of our own actions. We have failed at this quite dramatically lately. No other industry in the world would get by wholly dismissing their customers as 'wrong' or 'stupid' like conventional agriculture has at times. Do consumers make decisions that are silly and uninformed? Of course they do. But just as the above blog points out, who are we, as producers, to tell them that they are wrong? This is where education must come into play. Producers can wear that hat if they'd like, but they had ought to know when to take it off and serve their customers. I would argue that the responsibility of educating consumers on what is 'right or wrong' as far as consumption decisions, lies in the hands of our private and federal researchers and scientists.
Let them explain to consumers the error of their ways while we as producers are providing them with the service and courtesy that they receive from every other industry.