MINNEAPOLIS – In agriculture, there is always discussion on the disconnect between the consumer and the producer. Whether it is grain, meat or fruits and vegetables, farmers are producing food for a wide range of ever-changing consumers, many of whom are very removed from farm communities and rural America.
In an effort to bridge that gap, the Minnesota Pork Board is planning a Consumer Insights Panel at this year’s Pork Congress. On Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, a group of consumers will sit in front of a room full of pork producers.
“The intent of the panel is really to better understand the evolving consumer preferences that are influencing on-farm practices,” said Jill Resler, Minnesota Pork Board COO, during a recent phone interview.
With the help of a third-party marketing group, several consumers from a wide range of demographics will be tapped for their views on agriculture. The goal is to have a diverse panel of members from different age groups, with different backgrounds and shopping preferences. The more diverse the group of consumers, the more information they can provide the producers who will be watching and listening.
As the chosen consumers sit in front of the group or producers, they will be asked questions by a moderator. These questions will look at how they view various on-farm practices, what is their perception of new technologies, what factors do they consider when purchasing food and more.
“The trick to doing a panel like this is thinking first to understand and to be understood, instead of trying to educate, to really understand these consumer perspectives,” said Resler. “That will be the task of the moderators, to work through that and really have a robust discussion within the panel members and to really dig into their perceptions of a lot of on-farm practices and technologies.”
This panel is for the producers in the room. The goal is not to teach the consumers present, not to reject their ideas or correct their misconceptions, if they have any, about agriculture. The purpose is for the producers in the room to hear what the consumer has to say, hear how they respond to the questions and learn how they make decisions about the food they buy.
Science and technology behind agriculture is constantly changing and evolving. While producers may fully understand the new developments, consumers are not always aware of how and why new technologies are used.
“Oftentimes the science is saying that we can do some of these things, but today's consumers are asking should we,” she said.
As producers, it is essential to listen to the consumer, to hear and to understand their concerns. That way, those concerns can be better addressed through education or changing production practices.
To learn more about when the Consumer Insights Panel will occur, visit the Minnesota Pork Congress website at mnporkcongress.com and be sure to register for the event.
This is the second time the Pork Board has done a consumer panel like this. The first was with young leaders in the pork industry last summer.
“We are looking forward to the discussion,” said Resler. “When we did it in June, it was a good experience for our young leaders and I suspect it will be just as enlightening for this audience as well.”