TOP 5 INFLUENCER TOPICS

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.

1
Presidential Race: On the day of the third presidential debate, Oct. 19, Farm Foundation held a forum for representatives of each campaign to debate agriculture policy. Drovers CattleNetwork contrasted stances on regulatory policy. Hillary Clinton’s stance (represented by former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan) is that regulations “level the playing field, they give certainty to businesses,” while Donald Trump’s view (represented by campaign co-chair Sam Clovis) remains that regulations “cause people to lose the competitive comparative advantage they have economically.”

Politico scooped a short list for Clinton’s potential agriculture secretary, topped by California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. Additionally, her campaign continued to face scrutiny from journalists investigating leaked campaign emails (covered in the previous edition of Influence Feed). Julia Belluz of Vox reported that Coca-Cola Company attempted to influence Clinton’s stance on soda taxes, and The Huffington Post revealed that the candidate had, at one point, considered Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent as a running mate.
2
Major Media Food Features: On Oct. 17, The Wall Street Journal featured a 12-page journal report on the food industry. The spread covered topics ranging from food trends and nutrition to commodity pricing and highlights from the newspaper’s Oct. 6 Global Food Forum. Reception of The Journal’s report contrasted that of The New York Times Magazine’s Oct. 9 food issue, in which an article authored by Michael Pollan drew criticism for its anti-corporate bent. Former White House chef Sam Kass retorted that Pollan exercised a “Shocking disregard of endless facts to keep his world view [intact],” and Environmental Defense Fund Senior Vice President David Festa contended that large food companies have, in fact, made progress.

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3
Soda Politics: Soda taxes measures will be on the ballot in four cities on Election Day: San Francisco, Oakland and Albany in California, and Boulder, Colorado. Influential media sources traced the sources of campaign money flowing into these areas, highlighting billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Laura and John Arnold, who advocate for soda taxes, and the American Beverage Association (ABA), which opposes it. A representative from The Bloomberg-funded campaign explained, “Bloomberg made it clear he wasn’t going to let it be a one-sided debate where voters just hear from the soda companies.” The ABA has called the tax a “grocery tax,” and framed it as government overreach. In addition, anti-tax mailers have featured a Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) quote calling such a tax “regressive,” because it could disproportionately affect lower-income Americans. Politico reported that Sanders sent the ABA a cease and desist letter, and stated, “I have not taken any position on those ballot items, and I have asked the [ABA] to stop using my name in connection with this misleading advertising.” To which the ABA responded, “The fact is these taxes are regressive. … His representatives don't quibble with his words to this point.”
4
PepsiCo CSR: On Oct. 17, PepsiCo announced new 2025 sustainability goals, including one regarding sugar: “At least two-thirds of PepsiCo beverages expected to contain 100 calories or fewer from added sugar per 12-oz serving by 2025, with increased focus on zero- and lower-calorie products.” Michael F. Jacobson, president of Center for Science in the Public Interest, celebrated: “Kudos to PepsiCo … I hope other food manufacturers and restaurants follow PepsiCo's example.” However, NYU professor Marion Nestle worried, “Surely this announcement must be designed to head off the ongoing soda tax initiatives. … Pepsi wants to have things both ways: to appear to promote healthier beverages while it is fighting public health measures to reduce soda intake.” In the news release, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi underscored, “Companies like PepsiCo have a tremendous opportunity — as well as a responsibility — to not only make a profit, but to do so in a way that makes a difference in the world.”
5
GIPSA: On Oct. 14, DTN Progressive Farmer reported the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) will advance its interim Farmer Fair Practices final rule. Although Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote (PDF) to industry leaders on Oct. 13 — emphasizing further opportunity for public comment — most influencer discussions did not occur until the following week. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson applauded the rule for putting “the interests of America’s family farmers and ranchers before the interests of multinational corporations.” Meanwhile, National Chicken Council’s Tom Super complained, “Let's call the recently rebranded ‘Farmer Fair Practices Rules’ what they really are — ‘Gift to Trial Lawyers Rules.’”

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ISSUES RANK

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

Vegetarianism and meatless foods topped discussions in October, largely due to Circle V, a concert organized by Mercy For Animals and the musician Moby. Farming methods garnered significantly more attention this month, the biggest touch point being a New York Times Magazine photo essay that portrayed “the dizzying grandeur of 21st-century agriculture.” Notably, conversations of antibiotic use in animal agriculture dropped off considerably compared with last month, when the United Nations held its meeting on antimicrobial resistance.


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TOPIC ANALYSIS

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

POULTRY

Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by cage-free eggs, with 2,368 total poultry mentions. Articles highlighting a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and school groups urging the USDA to offer responsibly raised chicken to schools were prominent. A researcher from the University Nangui Abrogoua in West Africa developed a new immunostimulant to provide animal care that does not require antibiotics. The story received local news coverage across the U.S., causing spikes in conversation. A New York Times article stimulated conversation regarding conditions at cage-free farms after a video at a California farm was released that called into question whether cage-free environments are better. The farm is a supplier to Costco Wholesale Corporation. Lastly, Perdue Farms continues to receive praise for its recent transition to raise poultry without antibiotics.


DAIRY

Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by hormones, with 1,749 total dairy mentions. Hormones spiked based on conversations surrounding a decision by Wisconsin-based creameries and co-ops to no longer accept milk produced with rBST beginning in January. The largest spike in dairy conversations was related to news that Tasmanian devil milk could potentially kill golden staph and other antibiotic-resistant bugs as well as the possible development of new antibiotics. Lastly, there is ongoing concern expressed on social media channels regarding the diet and welfare of dairy cows as those issues relate to the safety of antibiotics in milk.


 

PORK

Farm animal welfare generated the highest conversation volume, followed by antibiotics, with 442 total pork mentions. Despite the high volume farm animal welfare generated no specific stories dominated conversations. Antibiotics activity was primarily related to an article posted on The Sun that highlighted a study reported last month by the University of Cambridge and Save Our Antibiotics, which found antibiotic resistant bacteria in a high percentage of retail chicken. Notable is a food safety story related to a new project announced by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., that will track the commercial flow of meat from producers to processors to grocers and consumers in China.


 

BEEF

Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by farm animal welfare, with 483 total beef mentions. Overall, conversation volume was low this period, but one story commanded attention on the topic of antibiotics. Chipotle Mexican Grill’s first burger store, Tasty Made, opened this week in Ohio. Grilled-to-order burgers are made from fresh beef from animals raised without antibiotics or added hormones. The company is working to expand its menu offerings and win back customers following high-profile food safety issues.