Three researchers share insight on how science and communications must be interwoven.
By Patti Hurtgen, Hoard's Dairyman Online Media Manager
"Beef is in the global marketplace," reminded University of Wisconsin-Madison Animal Sciences Department Chairman Dan Schaefer.
Depending whether it is beef, pork or poultry, about 10 to 25 percent is exported. We need to be aware of what the global consumer demands of our products. What they are hearing and believing about the safety of the U.S. food supply? These are all issues U.S. food producers need to be thinking about, he reminded those attending a panel hosted by Badger NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Association). Gary Radloff, Dominique Brossard and Dan Schaefer field questions from panel moderator Jenny Martin.
Schaefer and his team focus on both animal husbandry and the meat science side of beef. From animal care and housing to extending shelf life for beef, research covers a wide gamut. When beef has a vibrant color in the grocery store, it appeals to consumers, so they have looked at vitamin E supplementations to enhance color shelf life.
With social media getting much of the consumers' ear, the Life Sciences Communication department is tracking behavior on the internet to follow animal and food trends in collaboration with Animal Sciences. Dominique Brossard, chair of the Life Sciences Communication department, and her team, collect data that can assist in preparing for crisis management for such things as H1N1 or lean finely textured beef. Because those names are not easy to say or are not very interesting, "swine flu" and "pink slime" are the common vernacular the public has (incorrectly) chosen to use.
Information on the internet isn't always accurate. Gary Radloff, researcher at UW-Madison and Director of the Midwest Energy Policy Analysis for Wisconsin Energy Institute, encouraged those who research on the web to check and recheck sources. "Read the fine print," he said. "Know who funds the research and know who is talking."
"A lot of chatter about a topic does not mean the majority is speaking . . . they are just talking more," said Brossard. If the less vocal stop speaking, it gives credibility to the vocal ones. So, do not stop speaking up for your side of the issue. Schaefer stressed that people should read and see all they can on a topic, and then think for yourself to form an opinion.
"Networking is key," said Schaefer. The formation of research partners has helped a great deal. Those partnerships have been forged between the university and allied industry, but also with other universities. Their joint efforts allow a wider knowledge base and a sharing of resources.
Future research trends in food animals will most likely focus on genomics, bio-medical applications (animal uses in human medicine), animal welfare and big data technology.
"Society needs driving energy research," commented Radloff. Alternative sources for energy need to be found so we do not come to rely on only a few sources or countries. Looking down the road, the word "waste" could become obsolete. Whether it is water or manure, we are going to find ways to recycle and use everything.
The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.
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