Farmers and ranchers. Industry group leaders. Company executives. Nutrition professionals. Restaurant and retail brand representatives. Each of these groups is an essential link in food’s journey from farm to fork, but are we communicating with and supporting one another as much as we should be? How often do we all get into a room together?

I’m glad to report that each of those audiences was represented at the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s Stakeholders Summit, held in Kansas City in early May. Our theme for the event was “Connect to Protect Animal Ag: #ActionPlease2017” and sessions focused on how everyone with a vested interest in animal agriculture needs to come together and collaborate, despite our differences.

I learned a lot from our speakers, and walked away with a better understanding of the challenges we all face and the pressure from all directions that everyone is struggling to navigate. Phil Stayer, DVM, corporate veterinarian for Sanderson Farms, explained the company’s steadfast belief that “no antibiotics ever” chicken production is not best for animal welfare, despite its trendiness among some consumers.

Nina Teicholz, an investigative journalist and author, talked about her book (The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet) told us about the many pervasive myths in the nutrition world about meat and dairy consumption. Two dietitians explained why consumers are hearing and potentially believing misinformation about food and gave us tips and tactics to share the facts. If you’re intrigued by this small sample of speakers, you can check out recordings from the event here: http://agtoday.us/2017-aaa-summit

My biggest takeaway from the event is that open dialog and collaboration among all facets of animal agriculture – despite what segment of the industry you represent or what production methods you use – becomes more important every day. With well-funded activist groups working to harm our reputation and a confused public who isn’t sure what to believe, we can’t afford not to support one another.

While events like the Summit are a great start, there is more we can do to connect with one another, engage with critical influencers and protect the future of animal agriculture. I hope you will join me in finding ways to support others in animal agriculture and take “Action, Please!” throughout the rest of 2017.