Recently, I attended an association meeting where a staff member was sharing an experience she had at a consumer group meeting she attended.

She described how one of the presenters was exceptionally critical of the meat industry—targeting specific companies, and reporting how certain practices and procedures were perceived negatively by consumer groups.    

She determined that his attack was motivated by the belief of consumer groups that these companies were the large “evil” corporations. Didn’t the presenter know these companies started out as humble mom and pop shops? Is it fair that these companies are targeted simply because they found a way against all odds to be successful and grow into the billions?

As I sat and listened, I was struck by the fact that like most human beings, companies and corporations first reaction to a perceived criticism is to defend what we do instead of carefully listening to feedback.

Perhaps consumers aren’t all unfairly attacking our success; instead maybe they’re trying to tell us that as we have grown as an industry, we haven’t been the best custodians.

Perhaps in our pursuit to make a profit and increase share price we have not always done the best job in the way we have treated animals, in the way we have treated our employees and in the way we have produced our products.

Perhaps we were not listening carefully enough when we decided to feed animals growth hormones.

Perhaps we did not do all we could have done to prevent outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria.

Perhaps profit got the best of us as we decided what we could pay our employees.

We have just come together and made history as becoming one large association, that can now speak with one common voice; perhaps it would also behoove us as a united industry to listen as one. In the final analysis we are all part of the same consumer family, part of the the public and, as such, part of those same consumer groups that are providing feedback.

Indeed they are not our foes; they are our allies, a powerful voice that can (if listened to) allow us all to be better custodians of our animals, our employees and our products.

As the great Winston Churchill said, “The only thing worse than fighting with your allies is having to fight without them.”