When you look in the mirror what do you see? How do you identify yourself? Moreover, how do others perceive you?
Labels, physical and social have become an integrated part of our identity as individuals as well as our identity within people groups. Why would this matter? What is the point?
For the past few years I have been working in a food distribution company marketing food to restaurateurs throughout Minnesota. In sales, our focus revolves around consumer trends. At least once per month we take time to discuss our consumer, what they think, how they buy and what matters to them. It is important to know our market. Our last discussion got me thinking ...
It seems that the consumer of today is continually seeking an identity surrounding the food they consume and how it makes them feel. As a farmer, consumer perception certainly drives out markets. The new need to identify oneself and how we choose to eat could potentially cripple our market if we don’t pay attention to it. So, are you a carnivore, vegan, vegetarian or a flexitarian? And what diet do you adhere to? Keto, paleo, gluten free, dairy free? The list goes on and on.
Personally, I get frustrated and overwhelmed by the number of different labels that currently exist in relation to the food we eat. Please don’t misunderstand me, in that I believe it to be beneficial to have an educated understanding of where your food comes from and how it is raised. But the labels of today are definitely next level. In addition, they are changing constantly. We have major corporate companies like mine investing time and money to better understand this.
I think it important for those of us in agriculture to take notice. Our livelihood, way of life and the food supply for the world depends upon how we as farmers approach the ever-changing opinions of our consumer. In the next several months, I am going to take time to discuss the current state of food identity in the United States and how it will affect the American farmer, what we grow and how we grow it.
For the moment, I would like to leave you contemplating what all this may mean for us. Better yet, what do you consider to be the most important issue facing agriculture when it comes to diets, labels and consumer perception?
Lawrence and her husband Bryan raise turf grass, alfalfa, corn and purebred Hereford cattle near Princeton, Minn. She works for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation and is state coordinator for the Speak for Yourself program. Reach her at email@example.com.