How often do we hear or use the phrase that people “want to know where their food comes from”? Though it can sometimes feel overused, we know that it’s the truth as shoppers become less and less familiar with modern farming and there is more need for producers to connect with consumers.
The sentiment becomes especially true when people are purchasing food that was produced thousands of miles away. Marilyn Hershey shared that thought on the January 19 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream as she described the value of meeting dairy buyers and users on a recent U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) trade mission to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
“I think other countries and other areas of the world do a good job with that, and we really had to step it up and showcase U.S. cheeses to make sure that people know that the quality product they’re getting is from the United States,” the Pennsylvania dairy farmer said.
Roughly 17% of U.S. milk production was exported to other countries in 2021, and all of the panelists of the webcast emphasized that connecting with the people doing that buying is critical to strengthen the relationship and help both parties thrive. That’s precisely why USDEC facilitates trade missions that showcase U.S. dairy farmers and the work they do.
Texas dairy farmer Larry Hancock, who also chairs the USDEC board of directors, described that one of his favorite parts of the five-day visit in Dubai was stopping by the U.S. consulate and meeting with the agricultural staff there. “I thought it was really important that they knew we were there and cared enough to take off the time and the effort to travel there,” he said. “It showed that we were committed to exporting and that we supported the USDEC staff that were in-country.”
“Everywhere I went, I was told about the quality of the U.S. dairy products that they get,” Hancock said.
Becky Levzow, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, echoed that comment and added that those who bought U.S. dairy were also impressed with the variety available. She talked to people who were surprised to learn that more than 1,000 types of cheeses are produced in the U.S. “We have a lot to offer,” she emphasized.
In the field of food, which is full of competition among products with different characteristics, developing relationships goes hand in hand with quality and variety to make strong partnerships and opportunities for the people making and processing dairy foods. “Now you’re building relationships that give people a reason to look at your product,” summarized Cornell University economist Andy Novakovic.
To watch the recording of the January 19 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is also available as an audio-only podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and downloadable from the Hoard’s Dairyman website.
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