Are You Using Scare Tactics to Sell Your Products?

It seems like every day I find an article on the internet or an ad on TV telling me I should only eat organic, or that I should shop at farmer’s markets if I want safe food for my family, or that I should only buy antibiotic-free meat.  (All meat purchased in grocery stores is antibiotic-free by the way.)  If I didn’t have a background in agriculture, I would probably be confused by these ads and articles.  Many of these ads or articles are intended to promote one type of agriculture over the other.   However, in the process of promoting one product or method, we have created confusion about all of agriculture.   This is bad.      

The purpose of advertising is to sell or promote a product, I get that.  What I don’t understand is why people find it necessary to destroy another product or method of production when trying to promote their own product/method.   And to be honest, I’m tired of all of the scare tactics being used to convince me, and other consumers, that only this type of food is safe, or that this type of vendor is the only place where safe food exists.  I can find safe food for my family in many locations, not just at a farmer’s market.

Many of the scare tactics being used in advertising are aimed at how farmers produce food.  This may not be the original intent, but it is happening.  Farmers today are faced with feeding more people than ever before.  And, they are challenged with doing this on fewer acres than farmers did in the past.   This is not a task farmers take lightly. 

Farmers are using technology to help meet the ever growing demand of producing enough food for our friends, our neighbors and our nation.  There are groups attacking farmers because they have changed how they farm.  The reason for this change is to protect and improve our food supply.  These groups use this as a way to attack modern production methods and to promote a certain product over another.  They use scare tactics to make people believe only one type of food is safe. 

I recently saw an ad promoting organic food as the only safe food for growing children.  This is not true.  Organic food is not the only food that is safe to eat.   There are no scientific studies that prove organic food is healthier.  Organic is a personal choice, period.   And the reality is organic food is more expensive.  Many families, including my own, choose not to buy organic food or can not afford to buy organic food.  This doesn’t mean we love our kids less, or that we are against organic, it means we have a personal choice to make.  I like having the freedom to make this choice.         

I saw a label on a package of chicken the other day in a grocery store that said ‘hormone-free chicken.’   The chicken cost about $2.00 per pound more than the chicken that didn’t have this label on it.  I chuckled because there are no hormones approved by FDA to be used in raising chickens.  All chicken is hormone-free.  This is an advertising tactic to make consumers want to pay more money for the label because of the words hormone-free. 

Using scare tactics when it comes to our food supply is dangerous.  It’s risky because we all need to eat, and many of us prefer to eat 3 times a day.  Using fear and false advertising as a way to promote products only creates confusion.  Confusion can result in unnecessary regulations on our food supply that could result in less food being produced or food costs rising.  It’s time advertising campaigns got back to the basics of promoting their products without destroying another product in the process.

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About Chris Chinn

My husband, Kevin, and I are 5th generation farmers. We live on our family hog farm in Missouri with our two children. Our dream is that our children will have the opportunity be the 6th generation of farmers in our family.
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13 Responses to Are You Using Scare Tactics to Sell Your Products?

  1. WineePamela says:

    Thank you for pointing out the facts. Consumers are being misled. I don’t understand why organic feels the need to attack modern technology. As you pointed out, science proves it is not safer or more nutritious. Just a personal choice. Like what brand of jeans a person prefers. Some prefer to spend the extra money for designer dudes while some prefer Levis. Both are suitable jeans. It’s just about marketing.

  2. Paul says:

    We have marketing to blame. I don’t want to limit what folks can say about their product, but it is getting out of hand. I suppose the next trick will be saying “This grain is used by organic farmers to raise healthy livestock”. Stop with the Buzz Words!

  3. Food choice should not rely on fear factor style tactics. There’s 309 million people eating 3 times a day – It doesn’t matter what they choose a most won’t be “competition.”

  4. Ann Sheffield says:

    I would appreicate a reference to the regulations that prohibit hormones and anti-biotics from being used on chicken/beef sold in stores. Given the rate of disease in Confined feed lot operations, I would be hard pressed to believe that they would discard all the animals that became sick and had to be treated.

    • Chris Chinn says:

      “NO HORMONES (pork or poultry):
      Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim “no hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
      http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/meat_&_poultry_labeling_terms/index.asp

      This link shows you that no meat enters the market place that has antibiotic residue. I have included the information that answers your question below as well. http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/56994

      Q: How do I know there are no
      residues in my meat products?
      A: USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
      (FSIS), which regulates and inspects meat and poultry
      products, works with the Environmental Protection
      Agency (EPA) and the FDA to control veterinary drug,
      pesticide, and environmental contaminant residues in
      meat, poultry, and egg products. Residue control is a
      cooperative eff ort. The EPA and FDA establish residue
      tolerances, and FSIS, through the National Residue
      Program (NRP) tests animal tissues and egg products
      to verify that tolerances levels are not violated.
      Regulations include a specifi ed withdrawal time for
      each antibiotic used to ensure that the animal’s system
      has been suffi ciently cleared of antibiotics well before
      its meat enters the food supply.
      Since 1967, FSIS has administered the NRP to
      collect data on chemical residues in domestic and
      imported meat, poultry, and egg products to identify
      violative levels of chemical residues, reduce consumers’
      exposure and verify that producers are adhering to
      withdraw requirements.
      Based on 2008 data (the latest reported data), less
      than one percent of samples tested by FSIS exceeded
      antibiotic residue tolerance levels.

      • I appreciate your post and don’t disagree with what you are trying to say. However, as a meat processor, stating “no” residues enter the food supply is irresponsible. This simply cannot be proven. There are real issues with residues that should be addressed. We shouldn’t just brush it under the rug to deal with later. There were inadequacies in the surveillance that are (and should be) being dealt with. Perhaps a more appropriate response is to acknowledge, address, improve, and move forward. http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/24601-08-KC.pdf

      • Chris Chinn says:

        Thanks for your input. All the reasearch I can find shows that less than 1% of meat had any residues, that is pretty close to being 0 but you are right, there is room for improvement. As a farmer who raises livestock, we are inspected by the packer where we sell our hogs. They track all of our records of any medications we ever give. They also test the meat. If we were to EVER sell something with a trace of drug residue on it, we would be BLACK listed and would not be able to sell our livestock. The amount of paperwork we are required to keep on our farm is amazing.

  5. I did not grow up on a farm… my dad fed us by busting his knuckles on car engines and heavy equipment. Nevertheless, I’ve worked in ag-based media and know its value to America, our way of life and our national sovereignty.
    Several years ago I was shopping at a farmer’s market and had a newspaper reporter stop me to ask about the new organic rules the USDA had proposed. The reporter wanted to know what I thought of organic foods, whether I bought organic produce and what I thought of the new rules. I told her that organic produce and foods were way too expensive and that I had no problem with the “conventionally” grown produce at the farmers market or the grocery store. I told her I felt the “conventional” produce was safe and healthy. I was polite. As she heard my comments she stopped taking notes and thanked me for my time. I guess my response to her story didn’t fit the template her editors wanted.

  6. Jos says:

    Thank you for this post! I am for one also who think any food labeled as organic/hormone free are so overrated! I do buy occasional organic food only if their price is close to the conventional ones. I totally agree about this marketing scare tactics. Gonna share this post on my wall as well!

  7. Wonderful post! As a traditional dairy producer and a mother, I’m often frustrated by misleading product labels. As far as dairy goes, MILK IS MILK. All milk, organic, rBST-free and traditional, contain the same nutrients. All milk goes through the same quality testing and must meet the same standards. All milk is tested for antibiotics and dumped if it tests positive. All milk naturally contains very small amounts of hormones. All cows, organic and traditional, must have a calf annually to product milk. All milk is safe and wholesome. Consumers, you can feel good about purchasing traditionally produced food for your family. I do!

  8. VERY interesting article! I will be sharing this. Thank you for what you do!

  9. rusmenfarms says:

    I enjoyed reading your post, but I want to ask you a question. If you were able to highlight the qualities of your product to help connect you with consumers who had a Personal Choice as to what they wanted, wouldn’t you? Small farms all across America are being lost everyday because it is a difficult arena to do business in. So by “showcasing” what is different about their product, it helps to sell it and tell the consumer (who has the choice) what is so different about their product. Could it be that the larger farms are so far removed from their consumer that they don’t get the chance to market their product the way that they wish? Dealing directly with the consumer face to face, builds a sense of confidence, and it also puts a personal face on Agriculture, including the corporate farmers. So, next time you get annoyed by the labelling, just remeber, it’s the small farmers out there that are making the personal connections at the Farmers Markets and home based businesses. As well as the larger farmers who are communicating thru National Organizations and Social Media. You, see, we all have our places. SO, don’t get too annoyed, because you, then are doint hte same thing that you are accusing the others of doing.

    • Chris Chinn says:

      I understand what you are saying and differentiating our products in the market are important elements of success for many of us. Offering a local farm experience where the relationship is part of the buying experience certainly is different from providing products through national chains. I just think all farmers should look at how they choose to market their products against a litmus test as to whether or not those points of differentiation are honest or helpful.

      To say one product is safer builds on the fears of consumers who don’t have the luxury of the wealth of information farmers have on the topic. We have the safest food supply in the world here in the US, that is not a common point of distinction. As farmers, we have the opportunity to help our customers understand the personal choices they make and counsel them on what really matters. That shouldn’t mean using fear in my opinion.

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