Today's consumers, especially millennials, have a microscope on how their food is grown and sourced. Terms like local, organic and natural dominate the marketplace, but what does it all mean?
Hundreds of people gathered at a recent Dairy Strong conference in Madison, Wis., to discuss how consumers and farmers define sustainability and the various methods and technologies used on farms to protect the environment.
The Food Dialogues event was moderated by Michael Specter, a food and science staff writer with The New Yorker. The panel included a registered dietitian, a food industry sustainability expert and a fifth-generation dairy farmer.
Sustainability boils down to two questions, said Steve Peterson, food industry sustainability expert and former General Mills executive. The questions: Where does my food come from and how is it cared for?
Consumers are increasingly interested in learning more about their food and engaging in a dialogue with farmers and ranchers and the agricultural supply chain. This trend resonates with farmers who care about their customers.
"I think one of the neat things about American agriculture is that it allows us to respond to the wishes of the consumer, and that's what I'm doing as a farmer," said Greg Zwald of White Pine Berry Farm in River Falls, Wis.
With misconceptions about sustainable production only occurring on local or organic farms, Randy Krotz, USFRA CEO, assures consumers that "sustainability is part of all food production today. . . . Most crops are being grown much more sustainably than they ever have been before.”
Lauren Lindsley, RDN, CD, dietitian manager for Skogen's Festival Foods, said her customers are interested in hearing the story behind each family farm that supplies their food. People connect with people, and customers are now learning more about the "why" instead of accepting the "what,” she said.
The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and Dairy Strong co-sponsored the Dairy Strong conference.
Source: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance