The food business is not an easy industry. We keep, feed or catch animals to turn them into food. We sow and till the land to harvest raw materials or food. Eating, living, dying are among the aspects of our daily lives that people feel the strongest about, so it is no surprise that consumers often worry about foodstuffs.
The images of a happy piglet playing on a farm, compared to the pork chops on your plate form the starkest contrast. But both these images represent the essence of life. Some people find meat a natural foodstuff which can therefore justifiably be eaten. Others are totally against the principle of eating animals. We all make our own choices.
In the Netherlands animals are treated well. All aspects of livestock farming, slaughter houses or meat processing are done for a reason. This is a complicated system, which is not easy to explain and our own knowledge can often be a disadvantage. Knowing the exact ins and outs makes us want to be excessively complete.
Many people don’t want to know all the details. They just want things to have been arranged properly and to be able to rely on things. No person is able to know or check everything and that also applies to food. From cucumbers to meat, food is a common thing in the Netherlands. So common, that most of us don’t want to pay too much attention to it. It just has to be available and it shouldn’t cost too much time and money. If consumers were to pay as much attention to buying fish fillets, pork chops or strawberries as the producers pay to their production, they would be lost for time.
Nevertheless, food producers are often criticised. Ready to cook products are full of….., animals have lousy lives because …., fishermen ruin the sea …., tomatoes are only water …., eggs are bad for one’s cholesterol…. and farmed salmon is full of antibiotics….. One-liners that are good and popular soundbites that people believe because they lack sufficient knowledge, or maybe because they don’t really care, or that – at least – are not refuted or nuanced. Simple statements influence consumers. One emotional one-liner is often enough to get people to act en masse. There is no complex, detailed story that can beat this, no matter how true it is. Farmers, fishermen and other food producers have been able to feed mankind for centuries. They have provided the basis to enable people to grow to almost one hundred years old in fairly good health. That deserves recognition and applause and it is high time that this was properly explained. Possibly by means of emotional one-liners that are later proved to be true.