Why is Transparency in Agriculture so Important?
As society has started to shift to a more conscious brand of consumerism, and consumers become more educated about their buying choices, people are becoming more invested in the products that they purchase and the companies that they support, and with good reason. There are so many options when it comes to our food these days, but food labels are often misleading and it can take some digging to determine which companies are worthy of your food dollar. The good news is, the internet makes it easier than ever for consumers to educate themselves and put their support behind companies that really deserve it. One of the most important qualities you can look for when deciding which food companies to support is transparency.
Transparency is crucial in many industries, but it’s particularly essential in agriculture. After all, what is more important than being able to trust the source and quality of the food that we eat? If you’ve ever visited your local farmer’s market, you’ve likely seen some of your fellow consumers quizzing the farmer on how their products are grown and harvested (or maybe you’ve been this inquisitive consumer yourself!) While Pasturebird’s operation has grown larger than what you find at a local farmer’s market, we try to maintain this commitment to transparency with our customers.
Why Consumers Should Insist on Transparency
Challenge.org defines agricultural transparency as “the idea of demonstrating the quality of a product by capturing quality data, such as product certifications, throughout the whole of the supply chain. This data is useful when used to ensure a certain company only works with a trustworthy and compliant supplier to earn consumer trust.” More simply, transparency can be defined as being open and honest with consumers about how food is produced, where it comes from, and how it winds up in the hands of consumers. Officially, there are lots of statistics and record keeping involved – unofficially, it means that you can believe the labels on your food and trust that the company that put them there is operating with ethics in mind as well as their profit margin. Transparency throughout the whole of the supply chain is important, because if a product is packaged in sustainable and recycled material but grown or raised in an inhumane or unsustainable way, responsible consumers will find themselves misled about the true impact of that product.
So often, food is packaged with a “green” looking label or catchy slogan, and most consumers are unaware that with a little bit of savvy marketing even the most conventional factory farms can make their products sound earth and animal friendly. When you really dig deeper into the practices of many of these companies you’ll find that these savvy labels are hiding agricultural practices that really aren’t all that consumers are led to believe.
We’ve discussed in various blog posts on this site about the different food labels and how misleading they can be. Grocery store shelves are laden with chicken or eggs that have been “vegetarian fed”, and unsuspecting and well meaning consumers purchase them without really understanding what that means. If all companies were forced to be transparent, these labels would say something like “our chickens are vegetarians because we keep them cooped up in crowded barns rather than letting them roam free and forage on pasture as chickens were meant to do!” Or even worse, that chickens aren't really meant to be vegetarians at all! These snazzy labels don’t talk about how the vegetarian feed may be full of GMO ingredients because low quality feed is so much less expensive than allowing chickens the space to forage and providing them with a high quality feed.
The truth is, it’s really difficult to know which labels to trust. In an ideal world, every company would make their practices transparent – the ones that have nothing to hide generally do. In reality though, these companies are few and far between, and it generally takes some education on the part of the consumer to seek them out. It’s our hope that as agricultural practices shift to a more sustainable and regenerative model, more and more companies will be lauded for their commitment to transparency and responsible farming practices.
Pasturebird’s Commitment to Transparency
At Pasturebird, we don’t just offer transparency, we insist on it. Our desire for a more transparent food system is one of the main reasons we started this company in the first place. We were consumers before we were farmers, and we were aggravated when we learned that the “healthy” food we were eating wasn’t as good for us (or the animals) as we thought it was. Back when we first started this company, it was really tough to know which food companies we could trust. It still is, but it’s getting a bit easier to educate yourself and make informed choices. Ultimately, our initial aggravation turned into inspiration and was one of the most important driving forces behind our company. When Pasturebird began, we decided then as much as we do now, to provide healthy, nutrient-dense, humanely raised, and environmentally positive pasture raised chicken.
When a company is truly proud of the product they provide and how it is produced, it will welcome transparency. We love to welcome our consumers to our farm, and we’re proud to show off our regenerative agricultural practices and the animal welfare commitment that makes us so different from many of the large-scale poultry producers out there. The claims we make on our website and in our advertising aren’t just clever marketing – we practice what we preach and love it when our customers come to verify that. We offer farm tours, events, and workshops so that people can see for themselves what we’re all about. We’re committed to the welfare of our animals, the regenerative agricultural methods that we use to ensure that we leave our land better than we found it, and the nutrient density of our products. As Farmer Paul likes to say, we urge people to “inspect what you expect” and we’re proud to make that easy to do at Pasturebird.