National Meat Association March 3, 2008
I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna to take this anymore!!(Peter Finch from the movie Network)
As I listened to Steve Kay in the PDQ session at the recent NMA Annual Convention, I caught his clarion call for action and it has incensed and infused me. He was excoriating those anti meat activists who, to paraphrase Steve, are hell bent on putting those of us who derive our living from meat related activities out of business. Steve is that parakeet in the mine warning us all that we had better do something soon or we may be out of business before we know it. Maybe it is a bit belated, but I am now incensed with the methods those, who would attempt to take away my rights, use and I am infused with a passion to not only expose them but better yet show our consumers that the anti-meat, anti-animal-agriculture activists are wrong.
The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have the right to say what they believe. In fact, there are many of us who donned our nation’s military uniforms to protect their rights. However, they don’t have the right to use methods that, in my opinion, are repugnant and have become an anathema. In my attempt to get a better idea of their espoused “rights,” I visited the PETA website . The first answer listed to their rhetorical question, “Why animal rights?” is “Animals are not ours to eat.” They go on to say that, “. . . animals are not ours to use, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any way. . .” All of these are sentiments that smack of a fuzzy feel-good aura difficult to counter without coming off as a cold-hearted, brutal killer of animals. More about heart below.
Those of us in the meat business produce a healthy, wholesome human food, and for our work, we neither deserve the abuse from the PETAs of the world nor expect the praise of others. We not only provide good food, but among many other things, we are a source of jobs and contribute to stewardship of the environment all of which improve our society. We simply do our job of humanely raising animals and processing them into meat products for human consumption. Such is an honorable profession, which, as I say, does not deserve to be painted with a brush of scorn that PETA and others so liberally apply. They use the term “factory farming” as their euphemism for all animal agriculture practices without regard to their “humaneness” to galvanize others less informed to be against agribusiness.
However, is PETA the only anti-animal agriculture group deserving of our scrutiny? Well, I discovered another one called Animal Place of Vacaville, CA . They, too, promote an anti-meat agenda, but do it, in my opinion, in a more insidious manner. Their tactic is to promote their agenda with children. They justify their agenda with statements like, “Counter agribusiness's relentless conditioning of young children, which serves to dull their natural feelings of empathy and curiosity about farmed animals.” They do it by promoting 5 H instead of 4 H and in their words, “This campaign asks kids to add a 5th H "Humane Choices" - to their 4-H projects. Those animals whom (sic) they have cared for since birth and grown to love will not have to be subjected to the ultimate betrayal of trust by being sold for slaughter. The kids will not have to continue the process of desensitization which makes the betrayal easier each year.” Their stated goal in their words again, “Animal Place is committed to promoting compassion for all species and educating the public about the unjustifiable cruelty of factory farming and the far reaching benefits of veganism.”
These two organizations have every right to promote their agendas, as I said earlier. We, in the meat industry, also have every right to counter their methods with the truth about how we raise and process animals for food. However, the marketing lesson I am advocating is that such an effort must be as well orchestrated as those of PETA and Animal Place. This marketing campaign, and that is exactly what it is, should be education of not only consumers but also children and young adults as after all they are the future consumers. It should be a joint effort of all meat industry groups.
Simply to offer past tense reasons for the Hallmark/Westland debacle and how this could never happen again, we must instead insure that it never happens again. At the same time, we must show how it has never happened in other plants and how wholesome, nutritious and healthy our meat products are. Anything less shows no heart.
Mack H. Graves of Latigo, Inc., a meat and poultry marketing and management consulting company, who serves as CEO of Panorama Meats, Inc. wrote this Marketing Trends. You may reach him at his office phone: 303-699-7795,
Mobile: 303-882-5453, fax: 303-699-7206 or e-mail him at LatigoMack@cs.com.