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
Soda: On Oct. 11, The Associated Press reported that World Health Organization (WHO) suggested taxing soda internationally to slow consumption. Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), explained, “Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes. If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives.” International Council of Beverages Associations responded, “While we support WHO’s efforts to address obesity, we believe a comprehensive approach including emphasis on the whole diet is necessary to achieve a real and lasting solution.”

In the same week, American Journal of Preventive Medicine published research finding that The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have given millions of dollars to health and medical organizations, while simultaneously lobbying against health intervention. The study concluded these actions call “into question a sincere commitment to improving the public’s health. By accepting funding from these companies, health organizations are inadvertently participating in their marketing plans.” NYU professor Marion Nestle suggested the companies “want to have it both ways — appear as socially responsible corporate citizens and lobby against public health measures every chance they get.” American Beverage Association responded to the study: “We believe our actions in communities and the marketplace are contributing to addressing the complex challenge of obesity.”

AHA sugar recommendations
via Wikimedia Commons
[Public Domain]

2
Presidential Race: On Oct. 11, Politico Morning Ag reported that evidence from a set of hacked Hillary Clinton campaign emails showed Stonyfield Farm Inc.’s Gary Hirshberg convinced Clinton to alter her stance on GMO labeling. However, the risotto-making technique of Clinton’s campaign adviser, John Podesta, proved far more controversial to food influencers.

Tom Philpott of Mother Jones noted that Donald Trump’s agriculture advisers have largely continued to support the candidate. This follows a video in which Trump speaks openly about sexually assaulting women, which led to many Republican politicians to drop their support. Meanwhile, Julia Belluz of Vox observed Trump’s shift to a diet heavy in fast food served as a signal to conservative, blue collar workers.
3
Tyson Beyond Meat: Tyson Foods announced a 5% ownership stake in plant-based protein company Beyond Meat on Oct. 10. Monica McGurk, president of foodservice at Tyson, told The New York Times: “The quality of the Beyond Burger is amazing. We think it’s a game-changing product that gives us exposure to this fast-growing part of the food business.” Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, worried, “I am concerned about companies like Tyson, that built their success on extremely intensive and exploitive business practices, investing in the plant-based foods sector.” However, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, which has also invested in Beyond Meat, offered hopefully, “The best is yet to come in the new, emerging humane economy, and the latest case example is the rather startling investment by Tyson in Beyond Meat.” The New Food Economy editor Dan Mitchell pondered, “The ‘good food movement’ faces a fundamental dilemma. It wants to remake the industrial food system, and it characterizes Big Food and Big Ag companies as the enemies. But what if those big companies start getting into ‘good food’ themselves? … is it “selling out,” or is it getting corporations to buy in?”
4
Hurricane Matthew: Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on the people and agriculture community of North Carolina. In advance of the hurricane, Smithfield Foods and Tyson processing plants shut down plants and braced for the storm. In the aftermath, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality estimated that as many as 5 million broiler and layer hens died due to flooding, which could certainly affect the Tar Heel State’s ag economy. In addition, reports surfaced of leaking (but not breaching) hog manure lagoons. After an observation flight, Rick Dove, a senior adviser for the Waterkeeper Alliance, emphasized, “There are horrific problems, and I use that term very carefully.” State officials confirmed the situation is one they are “monitoring very closely.”

AHA sugar recommendations
via NASA [Public Domain]

5
Michelle Obama Legacy: On Oct. 5, first lady Michelle Obama dedicated the White House Kitchen Garden, including updates to make the garden both more permanent and accessible. Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich recounted the garden’s legacy under Obama and later reported that Hillary Clinton pledged to continue the garden. In a widely shared article, Vox’s Julia Belluz contended the garden was one piece of Michelle’s larger food policy: “Through her leadership, the Obama administration seized on a moment when America started paying attention to food, and made fighting obesity a top priority — both symbolically and legislatively.”

AHA sugar recommendations
via The White House [Public Domain]


CONSUMER PULSE

Consumer Pulse A monthly ranking of animal agriculture topics as tracked by social media traffic.

Antibiotics had the highest conversation volume followed by farming methods. All other issues trended lower with a total of 50,429 mentions. Consumers focused heavily on antibiotic resistance. On Oct. 3, The Guardian published findings of a livestock strain of MRSA in British pork. Twitter users also shared news of a PhD student from the University of Melbourne who developed a polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics. While the article posted in late September, it gained attention in the United States more than a week later.

For farming methods, the term “factory farm” was used in a high number of conversations this reporting period. On Oct. 13, The Huffington Post criticized proposed guidelines issued by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to utilize the label “humanely raised,” despite the lack of clear definition or standards for the label. An article in Mother Jones also received a lot of attention from users on Twitter, causing a spike in conversation on Oct. 6. The story refuted claims that industrial-scale farming helps feed the hungry around the world, noting a new report from the Environmental Working Group. Lastly, a blog post from January claiming factory farming is destroying drinking water worldwide was promoted on Mercola.com this month.


LATEST NEWS


 

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 2,910 total poultry mentions. Antibiotics spiked due to Perdue Farms’ announcement that it eliminated antibiotic use in chicken production. A related Wall Street Journal article received many shares and retweets. Tyson Foods’ investment in Beyond Meat caused a large spike in antibiotics conversation, specifically related to a social media campaign led by Foster Farms who asks influencers to use #NewComfortFood to promote its Simply Raised Chicken, which is American Humane Certified and antibiotic-free. Online petitions calling for an end to animal cruelty continue to circulate.


DAIRY

Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by hormones, with 1,216 total dairy mentions. Most of the topics discussed in the United States were actually based on stories from overseas. In a survey posted on Science Daily, 9 out of 10 Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers said they could likely cut antibiotic use by one-third in dry cow therapy and one-fifth in clinical mastitis treatments while striving to curb antibiotic resistance. A tweet from CBC News in Canada sparked conversation when it reported that “11 B.C. dairy farms were fined total of $65,000 after antibiotics were detected in milk they were sending to processors over the past year.”


 

PORK

Farm animal welfare generated the highest conversation volume, followed by antibiotics, with 899 total pork mentions. Farm animal welfare received more hits, but it was antibiotics and food safety that generated the most important trending news. A Guardian article linking British pork to MRSA infections generated buzz on Twitter. The most recent tests were done on minced samples sold at Sainsbury’s and Asda Stores Ltd., a subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Also, like beef, Twitter users have been asking about antibiotic-free pork. A second Guardian article also mentioned increased interest in pork raised without antibiotics.


 

BEEF

Farm animal welfare generated the highest conversation volume, followed by antibiotics, with 789 total beef mentions. “Grass fed” was a focus of promotional content with companies claiming it as a selling point for their products. Discussions around farm animal welfare varied, but did not relate to a specific event. Twitter users continue to discuss antibiotic-free beef, often sparked by announcements in poultry. An article in The Guardian caused a multiday spike in conversation.