I’m continuing my series on the Six Fundamental Shifts in Agriculture. After last week’s look at global markets, it only makes sense to point out the burgeoning effect of consumer preferences on our business, which is #4: Consumer Preferences, Perceptions, and Power.

It’s nearly Thanksgiving, and are you dreading sitting across from a relative or guest that knows nothing about agriculture and spouts untruths? UGG. Or, has your niece (or daughter) gone away to school only to return, having decided that GMOs are the devil, meat consumption should be banned (unless created in a petri dish!), and almonds do make “milk”?

Sound like a horror story? It’s not. It’s a reality of which we are all painfully aware. But try to be objective: realize that every generation influences the kinds of food that are produced by creating more demand for some foods and less for others. Call it whatever you want, but don’t call it unimportant, because, with the power of the internet, the impact of changing food preferences is happening faster and faster and reaching more people than ever before.

Even if we don’t consider ourselves in direct-to-consumer sales, consumer preferences matter, our customers—be they processors, millers, or packers—give tremendous weight to the emerging views of food consumers in the U.S. and around the world. We can be angry about this—in agriculture, we’ve spent a fair amount of time complaining that the rest of the population doesn’t “get what we do for them.” But, again, it doesn’t matter; we have to accept change if we hope to be in business in 2050.

Looking forward, what’s the job that’s needed here? Is it an ag advocacy role that helps debunk ridiculous myths or educate consumers? Or does it just require strategically evaluating what we raise to take advantage of higher profits if something different than what we currently build is what people would instead buy?

That’s for you (and your next generation) to seriously figure out—it’s necessary to be ahead of the curve instead of lagging and fighting it.

ACT Like A Pro Out There!
Sarah Beth Aubrey