Farmers and large food companies should work together in marketing campaigns, says Sask. producer
A recent Burger King ad showcasing the company’s goal of reducing methane emissions from cattle is not sitting well with farmers.
Adrienne Ivey farms with her husband, Aaron, and two kids, Noelle and Cole, on a mixed grain and cattle farm in Ituna, Sask.
“I was definitely disappointed when I saw the ad. I try to look for the positive side of anything. And when any company, organization or person looks to put time, money and effort into agricultural research, it’s very exciting for me. So, I thought that perhaps Burger King was putting money towards research on lemongrass in a beef cattle ration,” Ivey told Farms.com.
The ad features Burger King’s plan to reduce the methane beef cattle burp and fart by adding lemongrass to their daily ration. The ad claims, by altering their herds’ diets, farmers will see an average reduction of up to 33 per cent of methane emissions.
However, it seems Burger King’s claim comes from a small, inconclusive study, said Ivey.
Burger King “just jumped on that and spun a full marketing campaign around it, which is really disappointing,” she said.
When large food companies like Burger King make claims in this manner, consumers can develop a skewed picture of agriculture. Farmers are also put into difficult positions, said Ivey.
“When companies start to make strange or maybe unreasonable demands of farmers, we often have no choice if we want to be profitable. … But it doesn't always make sense for our animals, for the environment, or even economically in the end. So, it just creates a whole backlog of issues for something that really doesn't have a positive anywhere along the way, except as a marketing gimmick,” she explained.
This situation also touches on the larger issue of how restaurants work with members of the ag community. Some companies like McDonald’s have done a good job of engaging farmers, said Ivey.
“Instead of just making some random demands of what they wanted to market around, (McDonald’s company reps) approached the ag industry and said, ‘Hey, here's what we're interested in. Is there a way to do this? Can we please work together to figure out the best way to make it happen?’” she explained.
“I think that’s a really good way to (approach it) for any company that wants to create change within its supply chain system, whether it be for wheat or canola oil or anything else.”
It can really help if a company has a strategic person whose job it is to network within the supply chain, Ivey said. This person can attend producer meetings and get to know what farmers feel and think, she said.
But farmers also must be willing to work with companies, said Ivey.
“Take the time to form relationships so that we can have a say … when a marketing campaign like this is proposed. I (bet) that the Burger King advertisement was not run past any beef producers before it was released. I mean, the simple fact of having Holstein cows in a beef commercial shows there were no experts consulted on this advertisement,” she said.
“It's the responsibilities of the companies, but also of farmers, to try to build that bridge and create the relationship.”
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