Social Media: Good or Evil?

Social media is a fantastic tool for communication. Whether it’s for contacting  a long-distance friend or sharing photos of a newborn family member, social media avenues make connecting as easy as snapping your fingers. Social media also makes it easier to spread ideas, messages, facts, and opinions. A perfect example of this is the translucent French flag overlay for Facebook profile pictures and this trend’s dramatic spread this week. The purpose is to show support for the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Another example is a Facebook page called Project Team Jonny for a young boy close to my hometown battling cancer. The purpose of the page is to give updates and for people to show support to the family. What’s miraculous to me is the two-year-old page has over 46,000 “likes” or people connected. The town that Jonny is from, Jerseyville, barely has a population of over 8,000, but the power of his story reaches almost six times that. Social media proves the power of an idea or a feeling is immeasurable.

Thinking about my previous examples, it’s hard to argue that using social media for purposes like those is bad. However, as I scroll through my Facebook news feed, I see the following photo.

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To the average person on social media, this photo evokes a pretty strong set of emotions; anger, guilt, horror, etc. The graphic uses dark colors, and the thought-provoking idea of humans killing each other. Some people may even reevaluate their diet. With just a click, this photo can be shared to hundreds of a person’s followers and so on until the photo has reached millions of people within a day. So what’s the harm in that? After seeing this picture, a couple of questions came to mind for me: What’s the original source of this photo? Is it a graphic made by a child, a student, a mother? Where’s the source? Surely people won’t believe a statistic not properly cited for credibility. What does the author mean by “animals?” Humans are technically animals so is that factored into this statistic? Is this exclusive to strictly non-human animals used for food production or does it include euthanized animals, hunted animals, and animals accidentally killed by cars/other methods? Did the author consider the health benefits/harms of a meat-free diet?

Later in the course of my Facebook surfing a found a second graphic.

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This second picture conveys a completely different message. It conveys a normal looking broiler chicken and it presents a message in a normal, non-threatening or emotion-evoking manner. A source is provided along with a logo for an association so that consumers can direct their questions to the source. The information itself is linked to the Oxford Journals, which are a reputable source with peer-reviewed articles.

Sadly, more often than not, during my Facebook surfing I see examples of the first graphic. On a daily basis, negative opinions of agriculture spread like wildfire through the avenue of social media. Non-credible statistics and unreliable information are shared and spread until they reach millions of people susceptible to believing this information. So, in the grand scheme of things, is social media beneficial to the agriculture industry? Or even news as a whole? With this being said, it is crucial to have skepticism and critical thinking when looking at things shared on the Internet. Positive communication is key in our industry to educate the consumers on our practices and the reasons why we use those practices.

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I Spy: Grocery Store Edition

As a college student on a budget, when I go to the grocery store I have two missions: buy something to eat and try to make my bill as small as possible. When you truly scrutinize the products you are buying, their packaging, the nutrition facts, and the marketing strategies used, it’s actually very, well, shocking.

So, last week on my trip to the grocery store I actually documented some of the items that stood out to me, and my trip turned into an “I Spy a Marketing Ploy” game. Here’s what I found:

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A recent consumer trend hitting the market is the gluten-free craze. But, what is gluten? Gluten is the “glue” that holds certain food together. It is a naturally occurring protein commonly found in grain products like wheat. That’s why on second glance this packaging claim is horribly ironic because gluten is not naturally found in eggs, so of course they are gluten-free!

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I found it interesting to compare these two products – cheese and stuff that claims to be cheese. Upon further investigation I found that there is actually a greater amount of artificial coloring than actual cheese. Another thing to note is that the cheese ingredients are cheese cultures, which are the beginning stage in the cheese making process.

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Upon first glance, this shelf looks like heaven. When you stop to think about it, however, would your great grandma recognize these products? Or would she confuse them for astronaut food?

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Marketing Ploy #3: Fat-free cake frosting. Great, this product is fat-free! Sadly, it’s still terrible for you.

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Introducing Bailey’s guilty pleasure: Ghiradelli brownies. You have to admit to the one product at the store that just make you stop and stare longingly. I mean, just looking at that picture gives you a craving.

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It’s interesting to stop and think about how every store tailors to its customer-base. Take this product from Japan for example. I live on a very diverse campus. I couldn’t tell you what this is nor could anyone in my hometown but there must be a demand for it on my campus.

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Honestly, is this not the cutest packaging you have ever seen? Way to go, Pom, you get five stars from me.

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Veggie Straws sound too good to be true. How could chips made out of vegetables taste so good? Sorry to be the barer of bad news but these “healthy” snacks are just another marketing ploy. After taking a look at the nutrition facts, there’s not much difference to regular potato chips. Veggie Straws have 7g of trans fats as compared to regular chips like Lay’s Classic for example, which have 10g. As far as sodium goes, Veggie Straws have 200mg compared to Lay’s, which contains 170mg. Veggie Straws even have more carbs than Lay’s and only save you 20 calories. Honestly, the closest to “vegetable” that these chips get is the small amount of vegetable powder they contain.

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These Spongebob themed gummies are marketing at its finest. Though these snacks are targeted to children, I will admit that this 21 year old would gladly buy them.

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As a consumer with an education in agriculture, I chuckled at the placement of these two egg cartons. When you look at the comparison in pricing of organic versus conventional, it’s pretty clear that when consumers chose to go organic, they choose to go broke. Extensive research has been conducted on organic versus conventional and no differences have been found in nutritional value, contamination risk, or antibiotic existence (minimal antibiotics are used in laying hens conventionally.)

So, what’s the takeaway? Pay attention to pesky marketing on product packaging and remember to read between the lines of the “healthy,” “organic,” and other claims that are used to catch your eye.

10 Ways Biotechnology Improves Our Lives Beyond GMO Crops

Beef Runner

Image via library.cshl.edu Image via library.cshl.edu

Farmers and ranchers are the original environmental stewards. Ever since the earliest days of open range grazing, U.S. Agriculture has been working one on one with our natural resources. There have been a few rough patches through expansion, but we have learned enormous amounts of information about working with an in our environments and that effort continues every day. However, if you log in to many online forums or even turn on the television, one might be persuaded otherwise if we consider all the negativity surrounding the topics of modern food production today.

Many of the hottest debates center around the topics of biotechnology. You may see it referenced as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) or addressing companies that license and specialize in these technologies, like Monsanto. Many online forums blast out messages of how unnatural biotechnologies are and many folks are adamantly against their use.

Despite…

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