Customers entitled to their opinion

The adage “the customer is always right” is a short phrase with a long tail.

Consumers in the developed world are asking more from their food suppliers all the time. Some of the requests have legitimacy, such as when it comes to modern food safety and livestock handling practices that reduce animal stress. Others are just popular.

Your Western Producer has recently published several stories that are receiving more than the usual attention, both traditionally and in social media. Largely it comes from consumers and agricultural watchers, but you have voiced your opinion, too.

Some folks outside of the industry want a voice in farming. Many believe wheat is a poison, hormones dangerous, free chickens don’t peck each other, glyphosate carcinogenic and organic, grass fed, antibiotic-free is the answer. We have an interesting story, and video online, about organic food safety on page 29.

Recently, we have had popular coverage of international buyers of Canadian wheat wanting what they have come to expect from our grain. That is fair comment, in my mind.

For producers who mainly export products to distant lands, is their responsibility just to those buyers? Or should producers take heed of the opinions of a vocal minority of fellow North Americans who buy only a smaller percentage of prairie farm production and feel an obligation to be unscientifically critical of how grain is grown and livestock reared?

A&W implies its burgers are made of better beef because it is raised without hormone implants. And it implies the meat tastes better.

Our most popular story online last week quotes a veterinarian referring to the issue as a “hullabaloo.”

The 100-mile diet won’t work out here on the plains. Unlike our Central Canadian farming brethren, we farm at a distance from most of our markets. Prairie prices are world prices, less significant discounts for shipping and what middlemen take.

Most western producers can’t afford the luxury of smaller farms and organic or free-roaming production. And if that were to happen, the food might end up costing more than the average North American urban family would be willing to pay.

We recently published a story about a mink farm, which drew fire from a large group of people who apparently don’t approve.

Everyone is free to have their own opinions, right or wrong, particularly customers.

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