ST. LOUIS -- When consumers go online to look for information about the production practices that put meat and dairy products on their kitchen tables, they are most likely to see the kind of one-sided content featured in the documentary "Food Inc.", at the expense of content reflecting the points of view of most conventional producers or major food brands, according to new research from v-Fluence Interactive.
"Our research shows very few conventional producer groups or well-known food brands have a presence in the content that most frequently shows up when consumers search on these food production topics," says Randy Krotz, senior vice president and head of v-Fluence's Food and Agriculture practice. "And when they do, it's more likely because organic competitors or animal rights advocates are talking about them in a critical manner.
"In addition to omitting important voices that consumers should hear when they search on these topics, this landscape creates an uphill battle for producers and brands that seek to promote more animal-friendly production techniques as part of their sustainability and corporate reputation initiatives," Krotz says.
For example, the research shows 70 percent of the content consumers are likely to see when they search for information about beef production comes from producers of organic or grass-fed beef, rather than from conventional producers. Perhaps not surprisingly, this content is biased toward organic or grass-fed methods, suggesting they're safer alternatives to the kind of traditional, conventionally-produced beef that has fed America for generations. Meanwhile, similar to the sensationalized documentary Food Inc, little content accurately representing conventional animal production or the brands under which it is sold appears to balance these critical claims.
Similarly, a majority of the content (60 percent) consumers see when they search for poultry and egg production topics comes from promoters of free-range and organic chicken. About 30 percent of the visible and influential content found online comes from advocacy groups such as United Poultry Concerns. The research shows little content from conventional poultry producers or well-known brands in this online environment, aside from some references to Tyson and Perdue Farms crediting their efforts to reduce antibiotics in chicken.
Other key findings:
"Our study suggests the online information consumers see when they search for animal welfare and food production topics is largely skewed against conventional food producers and their brands," Krotz says. This means the debate leaves out critical questions, like whether organic production can feed an expanding world with shrinking resources; the ongoing need for increasing, not decreasing, the global food supply; and the mandate to do all of the above in a way that is affordable not only to the wealthiest countries of the world, but the poorest, too.
"These questions are all important ones, regardless of where you are on the continuum of public opinion," Krotz said. "Vigorous debate that includes all points of view is in everyone's best interest, and that's what's missing here."
With locations in St. Louis, San Diego, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., v-Fluence is a leading provider of Internet marketing and online issues management analytics and Web services. v-Fluence provides major brands and organizations in key food, health, energy and other market sectors the online analytics, counsel and engagement support they require to be measurably successful on the Web, in blogs and beyond.
SOURCE: v-Fluence blog entry/news release.