TOP 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
Election Day: Following the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, influencers began speculating on the potential impact to food and agriculture policy. Industry-focused media outlets Food Dive and Politico Morning Agriculture examined Trump’s past statements to outline his most likely agenda.

Bloomberg attributed part of Trump’s victory to rural financial upheaval. American Farm Bureau Federation President and CEO Zippy Duvall congratulated president-elect Trump: “It’s time our elected leaders put that same diligence to work protecting U.S. agriculture by promoting innovation and ensuring we have an adequate workforce. We need regulatory reform that boosts farm businesses rather than shutting them down.” Even environmentalist group Food & Water Watch, which opposes Trump’s policies, supported the populist outcome: “This election is more complex than the analysis we see from the pundits. It’s the result of the failure of both political parties to serve the needs of the millions of people who have been left behind by corporate globalization and policies that benefit Wall Street, not Main Street or farming communities.”

However, Meatingplace reported (login required) that “meat analysts and lobbyists are anticipating rough seas for exports, on which a growing number of meat processors depend to thrive or even survive.” In a Wall Street Journal article, National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock commented, “TPP is the one thing Congress can do right now to increase farm income, generate economic activity, and promote job growth. Campaign rhetoric has set America’s trade agenda back years.”

Additionally, several agriculture policies will be shaped by several state and local results:
  • Soda Taxes: As Election Day approached, influencers noted that in the Bay Area “the campaigns could have given $40 to each resident across the three cities considering taxes.” Ultimately, all four cities — San Francisco, Albany and Oakland, California; and Boulder, Colorado — passed their soda tax measures. Proponents suggested this signals growing momentum for their cause, and American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown celebrated: “Reducing consumption will improve rates of diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.” However, American Beverage Association CEO Susan Neely countered, “I just don’t see middle-class tax increases spreading across the country. … I don’t see this as a movement.” On Nov. 10, the Cook County Board (which governs Chicago and surrounding suburbs) passed a penny-per-ounce “sugar and artificially sweetened drinks” tax, according to The Chicago Tribune.
  • Massachusetts Question 3: By a margin of approximately 78% to 22%, residents of Massachusetts voted in favor of Question 3, which, “prohibits the sale of eggs, veal or pork from animals raised in confined spaces and can’t lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs or turn around freely.” The law is set to take effect in 2022, and will also affect items produced outside of the state. Animal activists celebrated. However, United Egg Producers President and CEO Chad Gregory expressed disappointment: “The lack of a common standard will result in significant challenges for egg producers in addressing a patchwork of state laws and will contribute to higher costs for households and businesses that rely on eggs in their diets and products.”
  • Congress: Nearly all members of the U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senate agriculture committees were re-elected. Meat+Poultry reported that only five members of the 45-member House of Representatives committee will not return.
  • Miscellaneous: Oklahoma’s Right-to-Farm bill failed, and several states passed measures to increase minimum wages.

President-elect Donald Trump
via Wikimedia Commons

2
The New York Times on GMOs: The Oct. 29 issue of The New York Times featured “Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops,” which set off a firestorm of responses. The article used specific research to prove its thesis that GMOs have failed on their promise to increase yields and decrease their use of pesticides. Influencers already critical of GMOs used this article for further defense of their position; for example, NYU professor Marion Nestle said, “[the industry] will continue to have big problems with consumer acceptance.” Conversely, Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience, wrote: “Farmers know their fields and what performs best on them, their input costs, and how they can market their harvest. And with that knowledge, they continue to vote with their purchasing decisions.” Nathanael Johnson of Grist remarked, “The problem here is that there’s enough data that you can easily pick the evidence to support your favorite narrative, depending on where you focus. … The most balanced approach is to look at all the available evidence — and that’s what the National Academy of Sciences report already did.”

NYT on GMOs
via The New York Times

3
Chicken Care Standards: On Nov. 3, food services companies Aramark and Compass Group announced changes to sourcing policies for broiler chickens, certified according to Global Animal Partnership’s Animal Welfare Rating system. Scott Barnhart, Aramark’s senior vice president of global supply chain, underscored, “A cornerstone of our corporate responsibility platform is a longstanding commitment to sustainable sourcing with a priority on the wellbeing of animals raised by our independent suppliers.” The companies had worked in tandem with activist groups HSUS, Compassion in World Farming and The Humane League. The Humane League boasted of a “relentless” five-week campaign against Aramark. The standards for both companies include housing and space requirements, enriched environments, and slower-growing breeds of broiler chickens. Josh Balk, food policy director at HSUS, said, “I’m not aware of another day in U.S. history that produced policies that affected more animals than the ones announced today … This is going to propel the industry to start making these changes overall.”

CONSUMER PULSE

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

In general, all topics were subdued this period, as the election took the stage. Antibiotics had the highest conversation volume followed by farming stewardship. All other issues trended lower with a total of 54,191 mentions. According to a Nov. 4 Fox News article, health officials found the first cases of a new superbug in the United States, although it was limited to a healthcare setting. Journalist Maryn McKenna took issue with a blog from Dr. James F. Gaines published by The Hill, in which he attempted to clarify the disconnect between human antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use in food animals.

There was also a steady stream of conversation around farming methods in anticipation of a few ballot initiatives (highlighted above). In a blog post, HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle highlighted the Massachusetts Question 3 win, Oregon’s wildlife trafficking measure and Oklahoma’s defeat of Question 777.


LATEST NEWS


 

TOPIC ANALYSIS

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

POULTRY

Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by farm animal welfare, with 1,904 total poultry mentions. On Nov. 4, a new Mercy For Animals video called for American Airlines to adopt a cage-free egg policy. On Nov. 9, The Boston Globe reported on passage of the Massachusetts ballot initiative, which “prohibits the sale of eggs, veal or pork from animals raised in confined spaces and can’t lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs or turn around freely.”


DAIRY

Farm animal welfare generated the highest conversation volume, followed by antibiotics and hormones, with 1,640 total dairy mentions. Farm animal welfare volume was driven by two tweets on social media depicting alleged animal mistreatment. A tweet by @MercyForAnimals received 75 retweets. A tweet by @SafeNewZealand linked to a YouTube video that features testimony from a whistleblower who reported animal abuse at a New Zealand dairy. Breyers Ice Cream announced plans to stop using milk from cows treated with rBST growth hormones.


 

PORK

Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by farm animal welfare, with 526 total pork mentions. Overall, conversation volume was low. Discussion around antibiotics was related to the National Pork Board’s One Health Day announcement, which highlighted the industry’s antibiotic stewardship efforts. Food Safety volume was driven by a recall of 1,689 pounds of Klement’s beef and pork products due to contamination with extraneous materials. Farm animal welfare conversations centered on the Massachusetts ballot initiative that passed on election day, which mandated all pork, veal and eggs farmed and sold in the state come from animals not confined to ultratight quarters, including pigs.


 

BEEF

Antibiotics generated the highest conversation volume, followed by farm animal welfare, with 483 total beef mentions. Overall, volume was low this reporting period. A story on Tasty Made, a new restaurant concept by Chipotle Mexican Grill, mentioned antibiotic-free beef on the menu and reported disappointment among consumers for food quality and costs.