World Meat Congress

Social media erodes consumer trust in meat

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Social was labelled a 'threat' and an 'opportunity' at the World Meat Congress
Social was labelled a 'threat' and an 'opportunity' at the World Meat Congress

Related tags Social media Chief executive officer Beef Lamb Pork Poultry

The use of social media to shame and defame meat companies accused of wrongdoing and malpractice is eroding consumer trust. 

Social media is seen as the industry’s worst nightmare,​” said Ted Bilyea, an agri-food consultant and president of the Canadian Agri-food Policy Institute. Bilyea spoke at the World Meat Congress​ (WMC) 2016 in Uruguay and gave a scathing assessment of social media’s impact on the industry.

Speaking on the issue of consumer trust, he warned the speed at which a news story can travel on social media created another challenge for the meat industry as it tries to improve its trustworthy credentials.

There are a host of challenges linked to consumer trust that the meat industry has to contend with, such as climate change​, land degradation, animal welfare​ and disease​. And thanks to the speed at which a negative news story can spread globally across social media, organisations need to work harder on gaining consumer trust, noted Bilyea.

The big bad wolf

The need for full traceability back to the farm is a necessity for any food safety governance structure,​” he said, adding other ways to build trust could be through accountability. “What is urgently needed is an industry database to track food safety, animal welfare abuse, fraud and other related issues.​”

Building consumer trust through accountability and trust was an issue debated frequently at the bi-annual WMC 2016. Jack Macintyre, lead analyst at foodservice insights firm Canadean, also warned the meat industry was being tainted as the “big bad wolf​” in food production. This was causing consumers to distrust retailers and food manufactures, he said.

Trust is attainable

Consumer trust in the meat industry has been severely tested by a string of scandals, including the horsemeat adulteration saga​, the pink slime​ scandal and claims that Russia’s market is filled with counterfeit meat.

But long-lasting trust is entirely achievable for the meat industry, according to Rod Slater, chief executive officer of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. He said businesses with trust are able to grow their organisation by following three core competencies: service, consistency and transparency.

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