Money for Nothin’…..and the Ignorance for Free
Some time back, I ran a story in this paper from the Modern Farmer, entitled “Voting One Way –Eating Another.” The premise centered around California and other states’ ban on small enclosures for large scale commercial egg laying hens –and the subsequent label of “cage-free” being added to egg boxes in our supermarkets, conflicting with what people would actually shell out money-wise when they actually hit the supermarket. In other words, it feels good for the masses to care about animal well-being and then vote to support that –but that on the capitalistic and economic end of it, people rarely put their money where their mouth/vote landed. The overall theme of the article also strongly suggested that these types of initiatives –although part of a somewhat democratic system –rarely drive consumerism and that the government, in turn –should also not regulate a society away from its capitalism by adopting policies based on these whimsical initiatives (which California has a habit of doing).
Recently, NPR (National Public Radio) has been doing a follow up series to the phenomena nationwide, and deduces quite systematically that the general population –although highly concerned with animal welfare and the “quality” of their produce, typically places these positions at the rear of their actual purchasing decisions. NPR also provides a systematic analysis of people’s real decision making deductions, and concluded that “affordability” of these higher priced products ranks SECOND in the decision-maker’s process, with first place going to overall value of what they were buying (their money would go further in their household if they maintained a certain level of purchase at the grocery store each week).
I guess the shortest conclusion is –DUH. Farmers and Ranchers have long known that the greater the ease of efficiency in production leading to higher yields is the way in which is most easily passed onto the consumer by way of affordability. This isn’t new news to us. What is new to us is the fervor of the general public to assume they are living in a world where the price of feeling good is –actually –free. Combine that with steep government regulations dictating just how good we need to make everyone else feel and you have an industry left somewhat bewildered and juxtaposition somewhere between a chocolate waterfall and a barren cow. Hard to figure out the in-between, isn’t it?
The solution to much of this has already presented itself. People are making their choices –quite loudly. They just aren’t connecting the way in which they’re doing it. This task –one of connection, is ultimately up to each of us as ambassadors of our fields, shepherds to our herds, and stewards of our land. Take time when you’re in town, to seek out someone in the supermarket or at the hardware store, and make sure they know you had a part in their food and eating today. Help them understand why the price of beef and milk is so high, so that hopefully, we stop voting with our hearts –and start voting with our feet.
Anja K. Raudabaugh