Families of all backgrounds are changing the way they eat amidst stay-at-home orders and extensive work-from-home policies. A whopping 85 percent of Americans have altered the way they prepare and consume food during this pandemic, according to the International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food and Health Survey.
At the beginning of this year, at-home sit-down meals happened at scarce intervals during the week. During the pandemic, however, Americans are enjoying as many as 21 meals a week at home. All of this home cooking is linked to greater awareness of health and food quality. In fact, a British study published in 2017 found that those who ate home cooked meals five times a week consumed 97.8 grams more vegetables than those who ate home cooked meals fewer than three times a week.
As you might imagine, with all of us cooking more, our curiosity about how the food we prepare journeys from farm to fork is also increasing. Recent reports suggest roughly a quarter of Americans are noodling on food during the pandemic.
This curiosity about where food comes from is raising the bar for food producers, particularly in the animal protein industry.
More than 9 in 10 consumers are concerned about farm animal welfare, according to an American Humane survey. Public support for animal welfare, food safety, sustainability, taste and nutrition should not be understood as separate phenomena, but as a growing public consciousness about how what we eat gets to the dinner table.
And it all starts at the farm. American Humane operates the largest farm animal welfare certification in the country, improving the lives of some 1 billion animals every year. We are constantly hearing from our farmers that farm animal welfare is indelibly linked to quality, sustainability, taste and all the other factors that make a product more desirable. Following our 200+ science-based standards for humane animal care is not something they take lightly
Consider Coleman Natural Foods, one of the producers whose 100+ American family farms American Humane certifies. They ensure families can be confident that their all-natural pork and beef products come from livestock that were raised the way nature intended.
Since 1875 the family-owned business has pioneered high standards in animal care. In the early 1980s Mel Coleman, Sr., worked with the USDA to set standards behind the term “natural” as it pertains to livestock raising practices, a progressive move as the “natural” foods market was coming to the forefront of consumer interest and public conversation.
Unfortunately, since that time the term natural has been diluted to simply mean “minimally processed and no artificial ingredients” and almost any product can now be labeled natural.
That is precisely why working with an organization like American Humane, to ensure all Coleman farmers meet the high standards for animal care, is essential. Third party certification gives consumers confidence that no matter where or what kind of product they buy from Coleman, they are getting something they can feel good about.
As consumers “click to cart” from their couches, they have more time to research brands, seals and ingredient statements. Food brands are under a microscope and those that have the audits to prove their commitment to consumers will prevail.
We are excited about the renewed interest in food’s start at the farm level and look forward to more discussion and heightened awareness of the importance of animal welfare.
As Americans across the country are homing in on their preferences for food quality and safety, it’s time for farmers to amplify and educate consumers on the food story. For protein, it all begins with humane animal care, giving consumers confidence that the meat they purchase puts the welfare of the animal first, resulting in a better quality, great tasting product.
Robin R. Ganzert, Ph.D, is the president and CEO of American Humane. Mel Coleman, Jr., is the fifth generation of the founding Coleman family and continues to work with Coleman Natural Foods to pioneer standards in animal care.