Transparency: Easier Said than Done?

Consumers have questions and concerns about where food comes from, how it is grown and raised, whether or not it is processed…and the list goes on. The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) hosts “Food Dialogues” that serve as an open forum for these issues and combine the perspectives of media, consumers and members from all corners of the agricultural community. On June 19, the seventh Food Dialogues was held in Chicago, IL. The event’s theme was “Transparency and Food: Our Responsibility to Make Information Available to Today’s Consumer.”

Transparency is not a one-sided concept, particularly when it comes to making decisions about the food we rely on every day. The 10 panelists dissected just some of the issues that influence the transparency of the American food system, including:

–          Communicating information to consumers clearly and simply;

–          Differences between food production and labeling in the U.S. versus Europe;

–          The value of a label compared to the consensus of an informed peer group;

–          The influence of the media in communicating about modern food production and farming;

–          Determining “who is responsible” for providing and interpreting information related to food production and labeling;

–          Interpreting “buzz words” that communicate one thing but might not be entirely accurate.

Much of the conversation focused on the hot-button issue of labeling biotechnology food products, but another overarching theme was the untapped willingness of farmers and ranchers to engage in constructive conversations with consumers. Katie Pratt, an Illinois farmer and one of USFRA’s “Faces of Farming & Ranching,” echoes the need for greater communication between farmers and consumers. She writes on her blog, “I am asking for some give and take. You say you want information. What do you want to know? Because farmers are listening and willing to converse.”

Greater transparency may not be easy, but it can be achieved by widening channels of communication, particularly between farmers and the communities they support.  The Food Dialogues: Chicago was just one conversation of many that need to take place.

You can watch the entire Food Dialogues: Chicago below.


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