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Three tips for talking to consumers about animal health

Growing consumer interest in antibiotic resistance and the way antimicrobials are used on farms means more hog farmers are facing questions about the way they care for their animals.

In a recent article in, National Hog Farmer, editor Cheryl Day shared her top three tips to help producers educate consumers about animal health and help them see that there is more to animal health than antibiotics.

While it is often easier to talk about economics and science, generally want to know producers care for the pigs and produce safe pork. Producers take care of their pigs in a compassionate way every day and should let consumers see that, Day wrote.

Antibiotic ice-breaker

Animal health and welfare are more complicated than giving antibiotics to pigs. Although antibiotics can start the conversation around health and welfare, they do not have to monopolize it.

Producers shouldn’t be defensive when the topic of antibiotics comes up, Day stressed. Instead, they should use the opportunity to tell their animal health stories. The role of the veterinarian, how to identify sick animals and the decision processes involved when deciding whether to use antibiotics are all critical to giving consumers a clearer picture of animal health on farms.

Words matter

The term “antibiotic-free” is highly misinterpreted by consumers and food companies, Day said.

While livestock producers understand all meat is antibiotic-free by the time it reaches the consumer, labels that attempt to describe a production practice often create confusion.

Day advised producers to avoid using “antibiotic-free” when speaking about a farm that chooses to raise animals with no antibiotics ever. She noted that the average consumer supports responsible antibiotic use.

Consumer studies have found that people want farmers to use antibiotics to treat sick pigs and prevent disease. Clearer explanations of how antibiotics are used on farms can help build a stronger foundation of trust between farmer and consumer, she said.

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