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The times are changing

It is the "popularity of the kinds of items that alternative channels go after: organic, natural, grass-fed, antibiotic-free," that will drive the future of animal agriculture.

So you insist on farming and ranching your own way?

Let me quote two prescient people and maybe you’ll change your mind. First, Nobel Prize winner Robert Zimmerman wrote this half a century ago: “Come gather around people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone. And if your breath to you is worth saving then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changing.”

And just a few days ago, Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of 210 Analytics LLC, said this at the North American Meat Association’s Annual Meat Conference:

“I think the tipping point is actually the popularity of the kinds of items that these alternative channels go after: organic, natural, grass-fed, antibiotic-free. What is happening is that traditional supermarkets don’t have the assortment. That’s where the alternative channels survive. They’ve definitely moved from picking at a meat purchase here and there to truly becoming a red flag for traditional retailers.”

It’s that damn tipping point that gets them every time. It’s usually a generational thing, of course. What us older folk consider sacred, what we see as comfort foods and the things necessary for making a good meal is not what our children and grandchildren see. They have an annoying habit of making up their minds as to what’s healthy, good to eat and what they want on their dinner plates.

And so often, those kids pay absolutely no attention to what we tried to teach them.

Here’s an example. My grandmother never bought a chicken from a supermarket. Instead, she grabbed one out of her backyard, hand ‘harvested ‘ it and cooked it for Sunday dinner. She scoffed at my mother for going to the store to buy a New York dressed hen - head and feet still attached with a few feathers still unplucked. My wife loved bringing home pieces and parts and frying them the old-fashioned way. Whatever that was.

And the newest generation? They bring home pieces and parts that are already prepared, no cooking necessary. They’re becoming fans, too, of whole roasted chicken, an odd beast called “rotisserie.”

So you want to do things the way they’ve always been done? Good luck with that. Your market is disappearing, on its way to meet the grim reaper. The new market looks at food and how it’s presented with a far different eye.

It’s Roerink’s tipping point -- “the popularity of the kinds of items that these alternative channels go after: organic, natural, grass-fed, antibiotic-free,” that will drive the future of animal agriculture. Will all of those things still stand 50 years from now? Probably not, but there will undoubtedly be a few new things that many today’s new generation will sneer at. A few will say, “Organic is perfectly good! Why do we have to fool with all this new-fangled stuff when this is the way we’ve always done it?”

I don’t know. Maybe because you want your products to be relevant to the people who buy them?

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