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Big companies and dairy producers together for animal health

Staff writer ▼ | October 29, 2015
Representatives from Chobani, Walmart, Starbucks and Kroger commended dairy producers this week for their hard work and passion, but also for their dedication to top-notch animal care, during a panel session at the 2015 Annual Meeting.
Animal health
Food producers   The 2015 Annual Meeting
NMPF Vice President of Animal Care Emily Meredith hosted a conversation on the shared expectations between well-known food brands and dairy producers on the subject of animal care.

Panelists included Michael Gonda, senior vice president of communications for Chobani; Tres Bailey, director of federal government relations at Walmart; Ann Burkhart, director of ethical sourcing for Starbucks; and Mike Nosewicz, Vice President of Network Optimization and Fresh Dairy at Kroger.

Each panelist said their company is often contacted by “hyper-conscious” consumers who want to understand how their food goes from the farm to the dinner table, and if it’s produced humanely. One of the most common issues raised, they said, is tail docking.

“We realize we’re not experts in this,” said Gonda, of Chobani. “When it comes to something like animal welfare, we need to look at consumer expectations and have an emotional response.”

One way to connect on that emotional level is for farmers to utilize social media to share their experiences with animal care and the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program.

Today’s customers, said Bailey, are embracing communications on the internet, and companies need to meet them there, instead of the other way around. Several other panelists echoed this sentiment.

The panelists noted the benefits of the FARM Program, and how it’s improved the company’s relationship with their suppliers. Almost all of the panelists lauded the recent NMPF Board decision to phase out the practice of tail docking by January 1, 2017. Nosewicz called the decision “a godsend.”

Bailey said that in conversations with commodity groups, the FARM Program emerged as the leader in animal care practices.