A look at what influencers are talking about. This quantitative snapshot is taken from Bader Rutter’s Influence Center. Topics cover a wide range of issues, including business news, activism, legislation and more.

Trump Cabinet Picks: In recent weeks, influencers devoted much of their attention to predicting President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet members and the agriculture policies that the administration will ultimately adopt. On Nov. 29, PBS reported that Trump selected Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the FDA and CDC. Politico noted that Price voted against the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act during his tenure in Congress.

The secretary of agriculture position remains unfilled, drawing commentary from various pundits. Chris Clayton of DTN Progressive Farmer, Politico and AgWeb each discussed a number of candidates, some of which have changed after Michael Torrey resigned from Trump’s search committee due to his lobbying experience within the preceding five years. Some commonly discussed names include:
  • Bruce Rastetter, a farmer and ethanol businessman from Iowa
  • Charles Herbster, the Nebraska cattleman who led Trump’s ag advisory committee
  • Dave Heineman, former Nebraska governor
  • Sonny Perdue, former Georgia governor
  • Rick Perry, former Texas governor
  • Sid Miller, Texas ag commissioner
McDonald's Strategy: Influencers regularly look to McDonald’s Corporation as an industry leader. In recent weeks, media outlets, such as Meatingplace, covered (login required) the fast-food chain’s foray into digital ordering and table service. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook confirmed in The New York Times that this would not eliminate jobs: “[We’re] not cutting crew; we’re redeploying them.” In addition to restaurant renovations, these changes will make McDonald’s feel more like a fast-casual operation. Easterbrook added, “We are putting more choice and control in the hands of customers.” In addition, Fortune noted that McDonald’s is expanding testing of fresh (not frozen) beef in Quarter Pounder burgers.
Renewable Fuels: On Nov. 23, the EPA released its Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) for 2017 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2018. Notably, the agency boosted ethanol levels to 15 billion gallons, which is higher than the 14.8 billion gallons suggested earlier this year. Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen applauded the move: “We thank EPA for listening to the public’s demand for lower cost, higher octane fuels.” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson added an environmental point of view: “Today’s announcement encourages family farmers to join in building climate resilience.” However, representatives from animal agriculture offered a different take, as National Chicken Council President Mike Brown articulated, “American chicken producers are only one drought, flood or freeze away from another crisis. The RFS has cost our industry $59 billion more in feed costs since it was implemented.”

President-elect Donald Trump


During this reporting period, much of influencer conversation was dedicated to Thanksgiving. Food prices dominated Thanksgiving-related headlines, with Bloomberg emphasizing falling turkey prices, after last year’s avian influenza outbreak. American Farm Bureau Federation economist Dr. John Newton declared, “Here in America … U.S. consumers have access to an abundant high-quality and low-cost food supply. We spend about 10 percent of our income on food and this [Thanksgiving] … less than $5 per person.”

Activists such as NRDC and Center for Food Safety (CFS) provided advice on cutting food waste, while Slate published an article investigating turkey industry worker conditions in the rush before Thanksgiving. CFS and Consumer Reports urged readers to consider antibiotic usage on farms when purchasing poultry.

Food safety also picked up some time in the spotlight. USDA offered food safety tips, and an FDA National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Integrated Report found (PDF) that Salmonella in both retail chicken meat and ground turkey reached its lowest level since 2002.

via Wikimedia Commons


Issues RankIssues Rank is a monthly ranking of animal agriculture topics as tracked by discussions between influential voices in the food and agriculture industry

Meatless foods and diets was the most-discussed topic in November, largely stemming from activist groups suggesting alternatives to turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Farm stewardship practices surfaced in conversations about Trump administration policies (particularly in regard to water regulations) as well as a report jointly published by Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition and The Economist. Conversations of antibiotic use regained attention after FDA released (PDF) its NARMS report.




Mentions in news and social media outlets for two-week period.


Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by farm animal welfare and food safety, with 1,930 total poultry mentions. A Forbes article published Nov. 23 discussing antibiotic use in food animals and Pilgrim’s Pride acquisition of GNP drove antibiotics discussion. Farm animal welfare conversations related to Thanksgiving. The farm that provided the White House Thanksgiving Day turkey denied animal abuse allegations. Mercy For Animals shared a Slate article highlighting how abuse to workers and turkeys increase around the holiday. Food safety volume was driven by the USDA’s proposal to amend nutrition labeling regulations for meat and poultry and news related to President-elect Donald Trump’s view on country of origin labeling. Also, Thanksgiving elevated the food safety topics with suggestions for preparing turkeys.


Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by hormones, with 914 total dairy mentions. Overall, conversation volume was low this reporting period with no significant news tracking. Twitter is the top social media platform where users chat about hormones and antibiotics in dairy, but little actual news is shared. For example, on Nov. 21, @MercyForAnimals tweeted: “When you buy dairy you support this abuse.” It included an image and received 55 retweets and 31 likes, causing a small spike in conversation.



Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by farm animal welfare, with 448 total pork mentions. Two stories pushed antibiotics to the top of the list. U.K. industry group AHDB Pork urged pig producers to submit their 2015 on-farm antibiotic usage data before the end of the year, to help the industry set realistic reduction targets this spring. Second, CNN looked at research that shows workers in the hog industry are developing antibiotic-resistant skin infections.  



Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by farm animal welfare, with 345 total beef mentions. Overall, conversation volume was low this reporting period, but two stories attracted the most attention. The appointment of a new CEO at Tyson Foods sparked social media activity, mainly centered on speculation surrounding Donnie Smith’s departure. On Nov. 29, AgWeb published an article exploring the move by McDonald’s Corporation to transition to fresh beef patties in its Quarter Pounder, replacing frozen beef patties.