‘Don’t spend time defending yourself against the 1%’ – Dr. Mitloehner on vegan ‘fringe’

“Taste, price, nutrition and brand” are the key drivers that inform consumer decisions when buying agri-food products at the supermarket.

This is how Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California in the city of Davis in the US, immediately responded when asked how, in his view, Irish farmers should respond to the growing sense of criticism being thrust at the sector from various vegan and animal welfare fronts.

Speaking to AgriLand, Dr. Mitloehner, who has a degree in animal science; a masters in agricultural engineering (specialising in the environmental impact of livestock); a PhD on the environmental management of feedlot cattle and whose work has informed national and international carbon policy worldwide, simply stated that farmers don’t need to defend themselves, they just need to “point to the facts”.

This is his response:

‘The Fringe’

“If you ask 100,000 Irish consumers what they think is most important in their respective food-buying decisions when they go to the supermarket and pick one product over another, they will tell you the most important thing is ‘taste; price; nutrition; and brand’.

“95% will say that.

“4% will say that ‘what’s important to me is local food; organic food; or maybe luxury food’.

“And 1% of the total will say ‘it has to be vegan’; ‘it has to propose food bans’; ‘it has to support a meat tax’ and so on. It’s 1% of the total population that is in that camp.”

The professor specifically refers to this consumer demographic as “the fringe“.

“The fringe has the microphone; the fringe has the megaphone; and the fringe is in the media non-stop.

“They are making the public believe that this is a new major wave; ‘us eating something new, moving and switching into a vegan diet’ and so on.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Pointing to the vegan market in the US, for example, Dr. Mitloehner says this consumer cohort has remained at the 1% level “for the last decades“.

“20% of vegans in the US only stay vegan for longer than one year; 80% stop being vegan after one year.

“And so farmers don’t need to defend themselves; all you need to do is address the 99% of people who like what you produce.

“They like your dairy products; they like your meat; they like your eggs; they like it.”

Truth

He advises farmers to “assure” their consumers that what ‘the destructors‘ say is “far from the truth”.

“Do not pick battles with the 1% but reassure them that the majority of people who like animal-sourced foods, that what they eat, and what they like to eat, is raised in a responsible way.

“This is an environmentally responsible way; an ethically responsible way; a welfare responsible way. These people are consuming safe, nutritious food that they like.

“Don’t spend so much time defending yourself against the 1%; don’t try to convince them otherwise.

“You will never succeed because these are activists that you will not sway of your argument – no matter how good or how valid they are.”

Stay tuned for more from AgriLand‘s interview with Dr. Frank Mitloehner…

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