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Today’s consumers are concerned with the “credence attributes” of their food, says Leann Saunders of Where Food Comes From Inc. These include consideration for the environment, sustainability, animal welfare and worker care, as well as production practices. — Photo by Kyler Penland, Angus Media

Satisfying Consumer Hunger for Food Verification

By Kindra Gordon   |   Angus Media
2/17/2017

Leann Saunders shared her perspectives on “capturing value” within the industry during a Cattlemen’s College® session Feb. 1 at the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn. Saunders is president of Where Food Comes From Inc., which is a leading provider of certification and verification services to the food industry.

Saunders and her husband, John, have been working in the area of livestock identification, traceability and food industry verification for 21 years. Where Food Comes From brings together their two former companies IMI Global and Sterling Solutions, as well as the entities of International Certification Services Inc. and Validus Validation Services LLC.

Saunders prefaced her remarks by highlighting the ever-changing consumer dynamic. She noted that in 1984 consumers were focused on taste, convenience, nutrition, variety and price. Today, in 2017, they still are concerned with all of those things, but now also consider what Saunders dubs “credence attributes.” These include consideration for the environment, sustainability, animal welfare and worker care, as well as production practices.

In short, consumers want to know the story behind their food and how it got to the marketplace. As a result, Saunders explained that consumers are turning to labels and brands — and third-party verification to validate those claims — to help garner that information. This is a trend that she anticipates will continue and compound.

Illustrating that, Saunders points to the proliferation of brands and various marketing claims — from natural and organic to welfare standards — now available to consumers at grocery stores. Saunders encouraged attendees to particularly look in the dairy section and egg section at the grocery store to get a glimpse at this emerging trend.

To this, Saunders says, “Brand matters.” Additionally, she shared the value from brands citing research conducted by Midan Marketing LLC in Chicago and Shugoll Research Inc. in Maryland that revealed 84% of supermarket shoppers were willing to pay up to 5% more for branded meat, while 55% were okay with paying 20% more.

To producers who are not yet involved in verification programs, Saunders suggested source and age verification is a good starting point. Next, she reported their company is seeing increased demand for verification of vaccination and weaning protocols. On the horizon, responsible-use verification — documenting antibiotic use — is “starting to pop up,” as is non-GMO feed verification, she says.

Other verification programs include Beef Quality Assurance (BQA)/Quality Assurance Third-Party Verified, Non-Hormone Treated Beef, Verified Natural, Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating, Progressive Beef, Grass-fed Beef and USDA Organic.

Of these many avenues available, she concluded, “As we look to the future, there’s a world of opportunity. What is important to cow-calf producers is to start keeping records and document what you do. It may sound difficult at first, but it’s like exercise. The first week is tough, but it gets easier.”

You can learn more about the services offered through the Saunders’ company at www.wherefoodcomesfrom.com.

Editor's Note: Field Editor Kindra Gordon is a freelance writer and cattlewoman from Whitewood, S.D. This article was written as part of Angus Media’s coverage of the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention. For complete coverage, visit www.angus.media.