Time for strong leadership and a united approach in order for the industry to make key decisions on processed animal protein, and capitalise on consumers' openness to learn about genetic modification, were the key findings from the headline debate at this year's Pig & Poultry Live, UK.
The event, set up by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) was held in Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, on 11 May, and attracted 500 delegates and 70 exhibitors.
There was fast paced, lively debate, followed by in-depth technical workshops and a concluding wrap-up session as representatives from both industries came together to discuss consumer perceptions regarding genetically modified (GM) feed materials and processed animal protein (PAP) in pig and poultry rations, and how industry can take things forward.
Live voting technology
Using live voting technology to monitor opinion, delegates, chaired by Adam Henson, watched footage of a consumer focus group discussing their shopping habits, heard from a consumer behaviourist Philip Greaves and debated with industry leaders, including the influential panel of Peter Kendall, NFU president, Tim Rymer, JSR, David Gibson, Moy Park and Rosemary Moon, food writer.
Having seen the responsiveness of consumers to learning more about GM and agreement that the science behind GM is safe, the case for industry to embrace the technology was conclusive with 93% of delegates voting in favour.
Processed Animal Protein (PAP)
However, PAP was not as straightforward, with the films showing consumers being quick to link it with food scares and animal disease outbreaks of the past. Even after hearing the facts, these consumers were less willing to be swayed than with GM. Many at the event felt the benefits of using PAP did not outweigh the risk to consumer confidence which so many in both sectors have done so much to bolster, with only 39% of delegates believing industry should get behind PAP at this time.
A number of participants, including the panel, raised the question of whether industry should be looking at new consumer friendly terms for GM and PAP and this linked to consumer behaviourist Philip Graves who gave a very different perspective on how consumers think. He explained the principals of consumer decision making and what influences it, and gave our industry some food for thought on the use of the Red Tractor; which as a brand was clearly favoured by delegates as a focus for educating and informing.
Pig & Poultry Live
Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE)