To address consumer concerns about the care provided to farm animals in the production of meat, milk and eggs, the American Farm Bureau Federation has launched the Conversations on Animal Care initiative.

Conversations on Animal Care is a comprehensive effort that supports farmers and ranchers who are eager to engage consumers in a positive dialogue about animal care. The initiative also helps livestock producers share positive and personal insights on the care they provide farm animals.

The initiative puts the faces of farmers and ranchers on our nation’s livestock care issues as they demonstrate that the animals they care for produce safe, healthy food for Americans, according to AFBF Public Relations Director Don Lipton.

In a national survey conducted online in January 2008 by Harris Interactive on behalf of AFBF, nearly 3,500 likely voters were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “Farmers and ranchers in your state treat their animals humanely.”

A majority of voters, 57 percent, said they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement. However, 34 percent of those surveyed responded “not sure.”

“While a majority of consumers who participated in the research believe farmers are doing a good job, one-third of those surveyed didn’t have enough information to even have an opinion,” Lipton said.

Survey participants were then exposed to a series of educational statements and messages about food-animal production. At the conclusion of the survey, participants again were asked if they agreed or disagreed that farmers and ranchers in their state treat animals humanly. This time, 72 percent agreed or strongly agreed —  a jump of 15 points.

“This tells us that, when presented with basic information about the practical and ethical standards farmers and ranchers maintain, consumers respond positively,” Lipton said. “The Conversations on Animal Care program is intended to give farmers and ranchers the confidence and tools to do just that.”

A major component of the Conversations on Animal Care initiative is a training program that teaches producers to share their stories effectively, help them find an audience and amplify their message of dedicated care of livestock. During two days of training, participants hone skills in sharing their personal stories with local audiences, the media and in one-on-one opportunities. They also learn of the important role on-line tools play in communicating to consumers.

“This program helps farm families like mine effectively tell the truth about how important animal welfare is to us,” says Chris Chinn, a member of Farm Bureau in Missouri who producers pork with her family near Clarence, Mo. “As producers, we don’t have to be experts on the whole livestock industry. But we are experts on the care we provide to the livestock on our own farms. That’s a story we can and need to tell.”

Research continues to show that farmers and ranchers, along with veterinarians are among the most credible spokespeople on animal care issues.

Participating farmers and ranchers represent a wide variety of animal agriculture segments including equine, beef, dairy, poultry and pork. AFBF, working with professionals from Osborn & Barr Communications, has trained teams of farmers and ranchers from Alabama, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee, to date.

Visit www.conversationsoncare.com, the Conversations on Animal Care Web site, to find out more information and read spokesperson testimonials.

Source: American Farm Bureau