Celebrity still rules in the quest for truth about food

I wrote a few weeks ago in this column about not confusing popularity with expertise in social media.

Last week, Manitoba reporter Robert Arnason offered a shining example of this unfortunate phenomenon.

It all began in January when Jillian Harris, former star on the popular TV show The Bachelorette and native of Peace River, Alta., wrote a blog post about becoming “vegan-ish.”

Some of the comments Harris made in her blog illustrated her lack of understanding of modern agricultural practices.

For example, Harris notes how, “I always imagined a dairy cow to be the most romantic thing ever, now I realize it’s actually torture.” And how she said she made the switch to “vegan-ish” because “it’s insanely better for your health and the environment.”

Her motivation for such a move seems to have come from a combination of watching three “documentaries” online, her desire to “be just like” an online food reporter and self-proclaimed plant and animal lover, and her bond with her dog, Nacho.

“Looking at those innocent eyes every day reminded me that he’s not much different than the piggies and the cows I was eating every day,” she wrote.

Now, Harris has more than 160,000 followers on Twitter, while, as Arnason pointed out in his story, a vastly more reputable source for information about the cattle industry — the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, founded in 1932 — has slightly fewer than 4,000 followers.

Western Producer readers were quick to offer their thoughts on the matter via social media

“In spite of the best efforts from industry and the scientific community to provide Canadians with the safest food in the world, so many would rather put their trust in a celebrity’s rant,” wrote Elouise Johnson.

“If you think you’re done with the popular kids when you finish high school, you are sadly mistaken,” wrote another Western Producer reader going by the name MiniBulk Inc.

Having said that, this story appears to have a happy ending.

In the flurry of tweets that followed its publication, Harris herself seemed receptive to an offer made via Twitter.

“I’m always interested in proactive discussions, so if you’re genuinely interested, you’re welcome to contact me,” tweeted @JustAg_Prod.

Only time, and social media, will tell how receptive Harris really is.

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