Speaking at a session of the American Farm Bureau Federation's 92nd annual meeting in Atlanta, Dr. Janice Swanson of the Michigan State University Department of Animal Science, said consumer demands for animal care and sustainable livestock production are not the opposing forces they sometimes appear to be. Swanson believes armed with an understanding of consumers' core values about animal care, producers can lead the way in making changes that will not threaten the sustainability of their livelihoods.
"Producers should not just throw up their hands," Swanson said. "In fact, many segments of the animal agriculture industry have been successful in establishing care guidelines that balance consumer concerns with the reality of production. These industry-based programs are valuable for producers because they add to their knowledge base and help explain what you do, how you do it, why you do it and should you do it."
Swanson lists some of the factors individual producers and industries as a whole should consider. They are: the costs and benefits of implementing change, financially and socially; how long you will need to implement change; whether there are changes you can identify that cost little but have a large impact; and what is the long-term impact of not changing.