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Beef Buzz News


Activists Say Consumers Want Antibiotic Free Products - But Are They Willing to Pay For It?

Tue, 30 Aug 2016 12:07:24 CDT

Activists Say Consumers Want Antibiotic Free Products - But Are They Willing to Pay For It? Today’s producers seem to be under constant scrutiny of how they care for their livestock and their production practices in general. One issue that sticks out is certainly the use of antibiotics. According to Oklahoma State University Regents Professor Dr. Jayson Lusk, this issue in particular is a tough one that is not likely to go away anytime soon. He spoke to Farm Director Ron Hays recently about how the industry is dealing with challenges like this.


“The answers aren’t easy and it’s not obvious how we want to do that and I would say it’s wrapped up in an animal welfare issue, too,” Lusk said. “A lot of the retailers out there want programs that never use antibiotics, what does that mean - are we not going to treat sick animals anymore. What does that mean for animal welfare?”


Dr. Lusk also brought up the trending topic of sustainability which he admittedly considered this to be a marketing ploy in years past, but he says, it has now been pushed onto the production side. He says the issue is gaining momentum and real questions are starting to arise about exactly how sustainable and responsible our production practices really are.


A major contribution that has allowed animal rights activists to progress their agenda, are retail groups that seem bow down to the wishes of these activist groups. He says it is becoming more and more common for retailers to agree to pledges to sell only cage free, gestation crate free, antibiotic free, etc. Whether or not these pledges ever actually materialize though, Dr. Lusk says remains to be seen. Ultimately though, he says it all comes down to what consumers are willing to pay. The practices proposed by retailers to producers in reality cost more to manage. He says, if retailers want these practices to be implemented, they should expect to pay for them.


“I think most producers are willing to adopt new practices if they can make a return doing it,” Lusk said. “I think the real challenge for producers is if they’re asked to adopt a more costly production practice that they can’t be compensated for - it essentially acts as unfunded mandate.”


Dr. Lusk says he has seen many cases where retailers have requested certain practices to be used by their producers and do not compensate them appropriately. In the end he says what happens are businesses like Chipotle that eventually hang a sign apologizing to customers that they cannot serve the product they claim to have because they can’t find enough producers that are willing to work with them, for what they are willing to pay.


“We have to be able to separate out what people say form what they are actually willing to pay and sometimes,” Lusk said, “those two things don’t always line up.”


Listen to Dr. Lusk discuss with Farm Director Ron Hays how animal welfare issues are affecting consumer demand in the marketplace on today’s Beef Buzz.


The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.



   




   

Listen to Dr. Jayson Lusk and Farm Director Ron Hays dtalk animal welfare issues vs. market demand
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