Thursday, April 7, 2011

Transparency and Shared Values

Back two months ago, Oprah Winfrey had a show devoted to the "vegan challenge” she presented to her staff members, daring them to abstain from eating animal-derived foods for one week.  At the same time, for the show, reporter Lisa Ling traveled to Fort Morgan, Colorado, to tour the Cargill beef processing plant with General Manager Nicole Johnson-Hoffman.  What many in the agriculture background feared to be another strike against our livelihoods, turned out to be a beautiful, object piece of consumer education. 

So many times, farmers—which are food producers, are attacked by those that come from completely different sectors of society, and assume that we treat animals purely as money generating units. It is true, we look at them as a means of revenue (our livelihoods), but we are still ethical people that treat life with respect and humanly care for our animals as long as they are in our care.

To illustrate this point even more, Cargill’s Director of Communications, Mike Martin, and Nicole Johnson-Hoffman were present at the episodes filming to talk about the part they played in the “vegan challenge.”  When discussing beef industry issues, Johnson-Hoffman did an excellent job conveying our position as farmers and food producers to Oprah’s viewers.

“When [Michael] Pollan attempted to give credit to the vegan lobby rather than the meat industry for investing in animal well-being, Johnson-Hoffman warmly replied, "That's a great example of how all of us who care about food and animals worked together to do a better job."[…Also] When Ling asked about ground beef processing, Johnson-Hoffman concluded her explanation with a stellar line: "Then, we make it into the hamburgers my kids eat for dinner."”  (Vance, 2011)

The product of objectivity was greatly appreciated by farmers and beef producers throughout the industry--it showed transparency and our shared values to consumers.  And it showed us that media involvement CAN work to our benefit with objective reporters and news people.  The fact that such a large target for scrutiny, Cargill, welcomed the interview and plant tour with Lisa Ling, set a stronger example to farmers and food producers everywhere that our work IS worth presenting to others, and our fear of the media is futile.             


Vance, A. (2011, Feb 13). Take on PR rock star status . Retrieved April 7 , 2011, from Feedstuffs FoodLink:

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