Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Image of red meat back in balance

The red meat industry has, for a number of years, had to put up with a lot of criticism, often unfairly. While, as in most sectors, there are areas where we can do better or improve performance and efficiency, we are an easy target for many with an agenda or who are simply ill-informed. This can be criticism on environmental performance, the health value of red meat in the diet or its animal welfare issues.

This can be galling in the trade press but can be even more frustrating in the consumer arena when the whole picture is not fully painted. The person on the street may just take what they have read at face value as they have no intrinsic knowledge of the subject, unlike someone reading an article in trade media, and this may change their behaviour. This is an area that EBLEX, in conjunction with our BPEX colleagues in the pig sector, and other related organisations like HCC in Wales and QMS in Scotland, are all working to address.
 
Too often unbalanced articles or comments appear in the media. We have concentrated resources and expertise over the last 12 months in ensuring commentators and influencers are better informed on the benefits of red meat. And this work is now demonstrating real returns. Analysing coverage over the 18 months since the meat and health campaign was launched, predominantly negative media have been turned to more positive items in print and broadcast.

Previously, an audit of press coverage showed five negatives to every one positive story on red meat in England. Now. We are looking at 5.5 positive to every 3.5 negative.

The work to achieve this has included speaking to more than 90 key opinion forming journalists and scientists, supporting the Meat Advisory Panel – a panel of experts keen on promoting the more positive aspects of red meat – compilation of a series of factsheets on common issues like red meat and obesity, red meat and heart disease, and red meat and cancer, setting out the real facts on these issues, and revamping the meatandhealth.com website.

The simple fact is that red meat is a nutritious source of many vitamins and minerals and can play an important part in a healthy diet. There will always be those with an agenda who simply want to put people off eating meat for whatever reason, but at least we are seeing more balanced reporting of the facts rather than skewed view with claims simply being taken at face value.