The Animal Agriculture Alliance will host its seventh industry-wide Stakeholders Summit April 8 – 9, 2008 at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, VA. One of the key messages for the day-and-a-half conference, “Animal Welfare: Building Bridges Across the Food Chain,” will advance is the idea that industry-led voluntary approaches are far superior to government-imposed approaches to animal welfare.
Former Congressman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, Charles Stenholm, will deliver the conference’s keynote speech, titled “Legislation’s Unintended Consequences.” Stenholm will provide specific examples of well-intended legislation that either failed to deliver their anticipated results or resulted in negative consequences from his 26-year career in the House of Representatives.
Frank DiPasquale, senior vice president and executive director at the National Grocers Association, will discuss animal welfare’s impact on food retail. Several of the NGA’s members are dedicating a portion of their meat cases to meat raised according to specific animal welfare standards that some in the public feel are higher than conventionally raised. DiPasquale will discuss the reasons for these retailers offering these products and discuss possibilities of future expansion of the category.
Following DiPasquale, Archie Schaffer, senior vice president of external relations for Tyson Foods, has been invited to present how his company banded together with other pork production companies to establish a dialog with retailers. This includes animal welfare, and its importance to all food chain stakeholders and how to come to agreement on major principles about animal welfare. Because pork companies initiated the series of meetings, perhaps the most important outcome is that their actions communicated pork companies’ concern about issues that their food chain partner’s may face.
“Everyone involved in the food chain, from agribusiness, suppliers and customers in the retail arena — in the USA and internationally — need to examine the solutions to critical issues that this conference addresses,” explains Kay Johnson-Smith, executive vice president for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “Our previous Summits have shown the benefit of cross-industry communication and this year we fully intend to expand that initiative, including speakers from agriculture, retail, veterinary medicine, transportation and other food chain participants.
“A major focus of this year’s Summit will be the effectiveness of industry-led animal welfare initiatives as compared to the unintended impacts that can come from government-driven legislation,” adds Johnson-Smith. “We doubt that there is anyone better in the nation to address this topic than former Congressman Stenholm.”
The breakout sessions of this year’s Summit will focus on the three key missions of the Alliance, connecting, educating and protecting the food chain. Kevin Murphy, president of Food Chain Communications and a well-known communications professional, will lead a session on building relationships across the food chain. Will Hueston, DVM, at University of Minnesota, another nationally-known communications expert, has been invited to lead a session focusing on diffusing inflammatory rhetoric. Ron Plain, PhD, from the University of Missouri, will lead the third breakout session which will examine how to effectively position food production as the crucial national security asset that it is.
Other prominent speakers from across the food chain — including leading legislators, top regulators, international trade experts, anti-terrorism experts, and other top professionals in their fields — will relate the most important information in these areas today (see Program).