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The Sustainability Conversation

Danette Amstein

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a woman holding a package of meat and reading the label

How to Impact the Sustainability Conversation in the Social Space

If you have been reading my blog posts for any length of time, you know I am passionate about the subject of sustainability and how consumers perceive it, especially when it comes to eating meat.  To better understand how meat eaters think about sustainability, Midan recently prepared a special report on today’s sustainably minded meat consumer.  This study looks at Meat Consumer Segmentation research through a specific lens to better understand those consumers who are most interested in sustainability and consciously making purchase decisions based on their interpretation of sustainably raised claims.

The report identifies and names a new group of consumers: Sustainability Enthusiasts. Naturally this group of consumers has a higher level of concern about sustainability. They say they think about it a great deal. They say they seek out sustainably raised fresh meat and poultry items when shopping and that they are willing to pay more for those items.

These findings got me wondering what Sustainability Enthusiasts find in the social realm when they seek out sustainable products or want to interact with other like-minded consumers, so I picked up my phone to do a little research. A couple of searches on Instagram began to shed some light.  I typed in #sustainability and then #sustainable. Not surprisingly, there is a fairly robust grouping of posts (15+ million) tagging something in the sustainability space. While most of them are focused on fashion and living, farming and agriculture did make the top 10, but they each had significantly fewer posts overall. I then typed in #sustainablemeat… there was a lot less activity. In fact, #sustainablemeat had only 20,000 tags, a tiny fraction (0.1%) compared to the more mainstream tags. This made me dive deeper and take a look at #sustainablebeef, which was about half as many as #sustainablemeat (#sustainable pork was significantly less, around 500 tags).

What was most concerning to me on both the meat and beef searches was that aside from the keyword I typed in, the majority of the other variations had fewer than 100 tagged posts.

Meatingplace Hashtags Listing

What conclusion do I draw from how meat-related topics are presented online? That Sustainability Enthusiasts may be struggling to find accurate information.

Many of these posts are not informative or educational and, in some cases, not even accurate. There is plenty of naysaying. Mainstream media is filled with op-ed pieces, investigative reporting and even lawsuits concerning the details of an organization’s sustainability goals. Most of these are called out for greenwashing. Within the ag space, greenwashing is primarily associated with greenhouse gas emission claims and corporate goals. 

There is only one way to extinguish this spread of misinformation: full transparency on the data that supports your sustainability claims or goals. Sustainability is a journey, not a destination; sharing your less-than-perfect progress is not a bad thing. We know the meat industry has begun this journey and opportunities are in place to continue to refine our efforts as technology improves and metrics are established.

To get appropriate credit for our work along the way, consumers must be able to find the answers they are looking for and be satisfied that our intent and effort are genuine. When we make claims – any claims, not just sustainability ones – we should expect and welcome the call for proof.

Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok are all excellent places to proactively share that proof in bite-size pieces that consumers can quickly understand, when and where they want to. Being seen in a social feed, even if it garners only a quick scroll, creates the opportunity for this group of niche consumers to grow in their confidence of the industry’s efforts. And like anything else, with growth comes scale, which helps all of us doing the hard work become more and more sustainable and ultimately enables us to be paid for our efforts through higher prices on our products.

In order to provide Sustainability Enthusiasts with the information they are seeking and keep them fully and positively engaged with meat products, I challenge you to open up your favorite social media platform and do the same searches I did. Spend some time looking at the posts, both those negative toward our industry and those doing a great job helping consumers see the positive side.

If you are looking for a good example of positive efforts to inform and educate, I suggest checking out Sustainable Dish. As a dietician, Diana Rodgers advocates for meat as part of a healthy diet. In doing so, she must also dive into the topic of sustainability. Here are two examples:

Meatingplace Hashtag Examples

Diana’s effort is something we can all learn from and lean into. If you don’t currently follow her, consider changing that. Share her content and then challenge yourself (or your social media and marketing teams) to increase content that speaks to how your organization is working to be more sustainable. Be sure to use the appropriate sustainability hashtags to ensure that Sustainability Enthusiasts zero can easily zero in on the information they are seeking. 

This content originally appeared in Meatingplace

About the Author

Danette is a Managing Principal based in our Mooresville office. Together with Michael Uetz, she develops and carries out the strategic direction and vision for Midan. In addition, she works closely with our meat industry clients to outline effective strategies based on their business goals, and then oversees the execution of tactics to ensure those goals are not just met, but surpassed. Danette’s lifelong love for the meat industry started on her family’s farm in Kansas, deepened during her involvement with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and state beef organizations and continues today with her passionate work for our clients. A well-respected thought leader in the meat industry, she speaks at conferences, writes social content postings, and blogs for Meatingplace. Married to Todd, she is a proud parent of a son and daughter, is a diehard Kansas State Wildcats fan, loves chocolate and still drives a combine when she goes home to Kansas for the annual wheat harvest.
Danette Amstein