Phobic Food Marketing

by 5m Editor
4 January 2012, at 11:10am

UK - Think of some famous advertising brands, it is remarkable how many of these brands implement science and technology into their products and highlight its importance, writes Dr Grant Walling, Managing Director at JSR Genetics.

Dr Grant Walling, Managing Director, JSR Genetics

Whether its is skin products advertising complementary ingredients of zinc, lipopeptides and caffeine at Garnier, Hi-Tec walking boots promising 4:SYS dynamic, motion-control technology, ion-mark waterproofing and v-lite design or brake energy regeneration in the BMW 'Vorsprung durch Technik' Efficient Dynamics system, the message is that technology sells.

So why is it that when it comes to the advertising and marketing of food the opposite applies? Words such as natural and traditional are more widely used, and some food products even promote themselves on the basis of not using new science and technology e.g. GM Free.

It is difficult to conceive that the latest smart phone would ever be advertised as “using traditional methods and natural materials” as for most this would create the image of two children with tin cans connected by a piece of string. Similarly a clothing company promising only hand made garments from organic materials would be unlikely to produce garments for many sectors of society, such as sports or military clothing.

This technophobia in the food sector is becoming a mounting issue because the global population is increasing and eating more calories per capita with an increasing proportion of these calories coming from meat products. The Foresight Global Food and Farming Futures Report predicts a population rise of nearly 30 per cent by 2050. Global pork production will need to increase by 110 per cent to meet demand in line with population growth and countries such as China, Russia and Brazil will need to increase production to meet this increased global demand.

All this is happening at a time when less land is available for agricultural production and variations in climate are making production cycles less reliable. During these challenging times science is capable of producing solutions and in some cases already has answers to many of these problems. The biggest hurdle is therefore not the technology itself, but the legislators and public's acceptance of using this technology in the food sector. Legislators and the wider public must recognise that Luddite views of new technologies will be the cause of global hunger not the scientific communities' inability to provide the necessary response.

In the UK pig sector traditional key performance indicators must be reviewed to better reflect modern pig production and consumer attitudes, including such criteria as lifetime productivity, saleable meat produced per tonne of feed, kg pigmeat produced per the amount of land required and kg pigmeat produced per kWH of fossil fuel used. Often marketing for outdoor, slow reared, free range and organic systems is based around a perception; the reality is that there is no scientific evidence to suggest they are more sustainable or have better eating quality and so I would suggest changing the unique selling points to efficiency and sustainability.

JSR is proud to be at the forefront of many technologies in the pig supply chain. These include detailed image analysis for intramuscular fat of all animals scanned in the sire line breeding programme, the use of Computerised Tomography (CT) in the analysis of live animals for their slaughter attributes, the establishment of taste panelling and routine pH testing of JSR customers slaughter products.

JSR have recently been awarded funding to investigate pre-implantation embryo diagnosis technologies in pigs and greater use of genomics for growth and feed efficiency in sire lines. Genetics companies such as JSR would like to develop many of these technologies further and implement others into the research portfolio, including the widespread use of embryo transfer, the use and acceptance of genetically modified organisms both in feed products and in animals and the possible role of cloning in the animal breeding sector.

Unfortunately many of the technologies on the "wish list" are sadly derailed not by the abilities of geneticists and other scientists but the protectionist views of politicians and legislators more interested in the short term popularity of winning electors votes rather than the long term good of feeding the growing global community. Only when these 'decision makers' wake up to the wider need for the huge efficiencies available by adopting new science and technology in the agri-food sector have we a hope that the public can be presented with the true facts, and make up their own minds, rather than the current nostalgic view of food production that suggests farmers should embrace outdated production techniques more in common with medieval than scientific marvel.

The 22nd annual JSR Technical Conference took place on 13 September in Nottingham. Amongst the many speakers, Dr Grant Walling presented Revolutionising Global Pork Production which included some of the themes above. To read each of the presentations, please click here.