One by one, I grabbed bacon packages from the grocery store shelf and flipped them over. I could feel a presence behind me swaying back and forth. I was sure that person was annoyed. After all, here I am in the local meat aisle sifting through the bacon options for far too long.
Out of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a young mother and her daughter. She moved closer. Great, I surmised, she is either going to huff angrily or say something.
“Excuse me,” she said, “what are you looking at?”
And with that, a lesson in bacon buying began.
Share your knowledge
Growing up in agriculture, particularly 4-H and FFA, provided me with a certain skill set I often take for granted. I was part of a meats judging team starting at the early age of 11, so I know what I want in my bacon, and I know exactly where to look for it.
I showed my fellow shopper the window on the back of the package. Sometimes, it needs to be peeled back and opened as in the case of bacon in cardboard casing, and then other times it is just plastic with packaging on the inside. Either way, there is a section that allows a few bacon strips to be visible.
“It is where you can see how much fat versus meat there is,” I said. She looked puzzled. So, I explained in more detail. Pointing to the package, she learned that the white part is the fat, the red is the meat. “How much do you want of each?” she asked.
For someone I just met, that was a personal question. But isn’t that what connecting with the consumer is all about?
My bacon preference is about 60% fat, 40% meat — I like it a little fatty. However, I explained it is up to her and her family, but a 50/50 ratio is a good place to start. She can adjust next time based on their reaction.
Then I warned that the ratio of meat to bacon does not always carry through the entire package. The window is a snapshot of the product but offers a good starting point.
“I’ve never looked at the back,” she said. “I just always looked at the front.”
What consumers want
The same could be said of us in agriculture. Too often, we look at the consumer and see only one side. They are nosy. They are demanding. They are radical. But there is the other side. They want to understand. They want a choice. They want a conversation. They want to connect.
I recently ran across an article on the “Five food trends to watch in 2019” by the International Food Information Council Federation. IFICF is a nonprofit that shares science-based information on health, food safety and nutrition and is primarily supported by the food, beverage and agricultural industries.
The top trend was consumers discovering food origin stories. “Consumer interest and awareness of the origins of their food used to start and stop at the grocery store or restaurant,” the report said. “Today, that’s a thing of the past. Consumers want to know how their food is produced, where it came from and the quality of the ingredients.”
They are looking to talk over their food choices with someone — who better than the farmers and ranchers?
As agriculture producers, we need to take the time to communicate with our consumers about our food production practices and their food-buying decisions. From pigs born to harvested into products sold and served, consumers are craving the full picture of what they’re eating.
As I walked away, bacon in hand, I saw my fellow shopper grab her own package and flip it over. Consumers are listening.