DMI CEO Urges United Effort to Establish a New Foundation of Consumer Trust for Dairy
Reno, Nev. – In a time when public trust in dairy can no longer be taken for granted, the dairy industry needs to be unified and proactive in building that trust, according to Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff. Gallagher spoke at the 2010 National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB)/United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA)/National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Joint Annual Meeting in Reno.
The challenge of public trust in overall animal agriculture has been made more acute by the fact that Americans are becoming increasingly disconnected from farming, Gallagher said, noting that agriculture today employs less than 2 percent of the nation’s workforce. “So, the trust in farming that used to be built, neighbor to neighbor, no longer exists,” he said.
This, coupled with the activities of anti-animal agriculture activists who are well-funded, well-organized, and increasingly focused on dairy, creates an increasing threat to ongoing consumer trust in dairy – and therefore to dairy sales, Gallagher noted.
Three Pillars of Strength
“The good news is that we are in a better position today to assure trust in dairy than even a year or two ago,” he said, noting that dairy has three new areas of strength its side – systems and science, commitment to community, and multiple pathways to reach consumers.
Regarding “systems and science,” Gallagher pointed to the formation of several key systems that provide reassurance to consumers.
Through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which allows the dairy industry to work together to help grow sales, the industry has completed a scientific study of dairy’s carbon footprint that sets the record straight on dairy’s actual impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The Innovation Center also formed an industry task force to address food safety challenges in dairy plants.
Further, the National Milk Producer Federation has developed the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care program, which has the support of more than half of the nation’s milk supply.
The dairy industry’s commitment to community “starts with stewardship of the land, extends to the economic impact that dairy producers have on the community, and comes to life in the commitment to kids through nutritious foods and physical activity in schools,” Gallagher said.
To that end, DMI has created a new foundation with the goal of raising $10 million annually to reward schools that provide for better nutrition, including kid-friendly foods like dairy, and physical activity. “This initiative is a critical part of your reputation in your community,” Gallagher said.
Paths to Build Trust and Loyalty
The third area of strength relates to the multiple paths to build trust and loyalty among consumers. One example is the Innovation Center’s Consumer Confidence Committee, where the entire industry can speak with one unified voice to food retailers, quick-serve restaurants and others. Another path is through dairy marketing partners such as Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s, which can share dairy-friendly messaging on their packaging and in their promotions. And, Fuel Up to Play 60 partners can communicate with consumers through their Foundation aimed at overcoming childhood obesity.
“We also have the human resources of the entire dairy industry – thousands of staff from promotion, co-ops, processors and manufacturers, who call on businesses, institutions and schools every day,” he added. “That, plus the nation’s dairy producers, who can get even more involved in the effort to advance dairy’s priorities in your communities.”
All of these strengths working together can create a tipping point to establish a new foundation of consumer trust in the industry, where positive voices drown out the negative voices, Gallagher said.
The industry will build this trust from its legacy of positive imagery and reputation embodied in its farmers, who:
- Feed the world
- Fight childhood obesity
- Address hunger and malnutrition
- Bring jobs to local communities
- Provide a path to energy independence
- Assure food security
- Care for the land and their animals
“That’s your legacy. And telling this story is how we will build a new foundation of consumer trust for dairy,” Gallagher concluded.
For more information the producer-funded dairy checkoff, visit www.dairycheckoff.com.