A nationwide survey from Consumers Union—the group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine—found that 86% of more than a thousand adults said they would like to see more antibiotic-free meat on store shelves.
Some 60% said they’d be willing to pay more for it, according to CU’s news release.
Wait—I take that back. This isn’t “news.”
Any survey that asks people whether they prefer an improved product over an unimproved one yields results in the 80th (and above) percentile. But that’s because you’re asking what pollsters call a “throwaway question.”
- Would you be in favor of engineering that would produce safer highways?
- Do you think the government should more strictly regulate hazardous toys?
- Would you support laws that would ensure safer food products in restaurants and supermarkets?
You get the idea. Offer a thousand people a clear choice between the status quo and something better, and you’ll reliably get 80%-plus to agree with the statement. In fact, whenever you get 80% of people to agree on anything, you know right there your survey is flawed.
What was less publicized but more relevant to those in the meat industry, however, wasn’t the biased questions but Consumers Union’s strategy for moving forward on an issue they have embraced for years.
“If we are going to tackle this problem, we have to reduce the use [of antibiotics] in animals,” Jean Halloran, the group’s Director of Food Policy Initiatives, told reporters in discussing antibiotic resistance. “The government seems unable to take this step, so we’re looking at the marketplace. It’s supermarkets who stock these products, and consumers who buy them.”
That’s a well-known tactic: Attack the retailer, who must face consumers on a daily basis. Get them to suffer pushback, the thinking goes, and they’ll demand changes from their suppliers, rather than face complaints from customers.
Nothing wrong with using the marketplace to drive change. Most of the time, that’s a more effective way to promote an agenda.
The problem with Consumers Union however, is that they have a litany of problems they want “solved,” and they’re certainly not limiting their advocacy to marketplace manipulation. CU has been one of the most vocal supporters of regulatory action to ban the use of animal antibiotics, and their frustration in not getting such a law passed is evident in the quote from the policy director.