OSU Ag Economist Jayson Lusk Talks About Opportunities and the 'Food Police'Tue, 02 Apr 2013 13:26:53 CDT
There has been a lot of talk about pressure within our society and our economy about consumers spending more money on food if they believe they’re getting something extra-natural food, organic food, food from animals touted as being more humanely treated.
Dr. Jayson Lusk, an agriculture economist at Oklahoma State University, says that desire on the part of consumers spells opportunities for farmers who wish to satisfy those desires.
“In a lot of ways, it’s fantastic. There are a lot of marketing opportunities for people, for example in the pork industry. And I think it’s great. That’s the market working at its best when you have consumers demanding certain kinds of products, willing to pay more for it, and producers who are willing to make those changes. I think those are fantastic, positive developments.
“The only thing I caution against is for those consumers who can afford to do those things, not to impose their beliefs and preferences on people who can’t. And I think that’s the challenge that sometimes comes about.”
You talk about the industry trying to be more transparent. Ways to be transparent.
“By and large, the people that work in this industry are good people. They try and treat their animals well. They try and provide a good product to the market. I think that if people could see that they would see that it’s not some evil corporate conspiracy that’s being foisted upon them.”
He says efforts to bring consumers onto the farm to see what actually happens there as opposed to being told by those with an agenda what goes on there is a very positive development.
Lusk says that farmers have to be ready and willing to engage the debate and dialogue with those who are not supportive of animal agriculture.
There are those who don’t hold modern agriculture in very high esteem and Lusk says they have very strong opinions. He has written a book called “The Food Police” about those activists who attempt to force their opinions on others through government regulation. The book will be released later this month.
“I tried to do two things in this book: One of the goals is just to remind people that the people producing food in this country are not being manipulated. They’re not some kind of evil, underhanded folks. These are good people. I think one of the unfortunate realities when you read a lot of popular accounts of food and farming is that there is sort of a caricature painted of modern, production agriculture that just can’t withstand scrutiny. And, so, part of what I want to do in this book is set that record straight and let people see what’s going on and why farmers make the decisions that they do. They’re just trying to respond to consumer demands and what technologies will make them more efficient and bring lower prices to consumers.
“That’s one part of it. The other side of it, too, is that I see a big faction of folks who are offering a lot of ‘feel good’ policies for problems that they see either related to health or environment and those are the folks I’m calling the food police. I like to think of them as sort of the backseat drivers when it comes to food. They think they know more than you or I about what we should be eating. And what I try to show is that a lot of the policies they’re promoting whether it be ‘fat’ taxes or bans on large sodas or even certain environmental regulations are just not going to have the kind of consequences that they anticipate and, in fact, they are going to hurt, a lot of times, harm the very people they claim to be helping whether it’s the poor, the farmers, or what have you.
“So, in a way, it’s a defense of modern production agriculture and a defense of individual decision-making.”
Here is s sample from Lusk’s book “The Food Police,” due out April 15th:
Like it or not, the food police will be at dinner. It is impossible to turn on the TV, pick up a book about food, or stroll through the grocery store without hearing a sermon on how to eat. We have been pronounced a nation of sinful eaters, and the food police have made it their mission that we seek contrition for every meal. We are guilty of violating the elite’s revelations. Thou shalt not eat at McDonald’s, buy eggs from chickens raised in cages, buy tomatoes from Mexico, or feed your infant nonorganic baby food. There can be no lack of faith in the elite’s dictates. There are no difficult trade-offs and no gray areas. Thou shalt sacrifice taste for nutrition, convenience for sustainability, and low prices for social justice.
And if we won’t willingly repent, the high priests of politically correct food will regulate us into submission.
You can read more about “The Food Police” by clicking here.
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