Ethics Blog #4

In the creepiest video I’ve watched all week, an actress posing as a marketer for the food industry described in detail the horrors of factory farming and the marketing required to cover up those horrors. Factory farming involves “intensive systems” that “prioritise production above all else, creating vast quantities of seemingly cheap meat, milk and eggs” (CIWF).

The woman in the video may not be a real marketer, but her point was the same: “This is systemized cruelty on a massive scale, and we only get away with it because everyone is prepared to look the other way.”

These marketers must face a very real examination of loyalties. Do they prioritize loyalty to their clients and employers, or loyalty to consumers and animals?

Many fast food chains have started to realize that loyalty to some customers in this area could prove to be lucrative. As many consumers are demanding healthier, more ethical food options, restaurants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell are pledging to make all of their eggs cage-free in the next few years.

However, the term “cage-free” is used to describe the amount of space a chicken is given to roam — which means this may just be enhanced marketing and not real change:

Since cage-free certifications do not require outdoor access, the vast majority of “cage-free” egg producers opt for giant barns employing indoor housing systems —€” either “enriched colonies” or “aviaries” depending on how much capital they are willing to invest. Many opponents of the current industrial shift are calling the differences between conventional and cage-free marginal, at best. (Sherfey, 2016)

Some consumers don’t even care about the conditions in which their food is produced — which our video claimed was a “secret weapon” for food marketers. Dale Volkert, founder of Lake Meadow Naturals, a small, cage-free egg producer, echoed our video’s sentiments about the consumer:

“I think part of the consumer base does not care,” Volkert said.

“They just want cheap eggs… For a lot of those people, that’s all they can afford. They’re eating to survive. They’re not concerned about the animal. But then you have the middle and upper-class that have those [animal welfare] concerns” (Sherfey, 2016).

True loyalty to a consumer base would be difficult to achieve in this situation, as even customers are split on the ethical consequences of factory farming.

Although it is sad to see animals in this situation, without a clear-cut response from consumers, I understand why food companies have chosen the most profitable and efficient practices for their business.

Sources:

Factory farming. (2016). Compassion in world farming. Retrieved from https://www.ciwf.org.uk/factory-farming/

Lamour, J. (2014, June 4). No one applauds this woman because they’re too creeped out at themselves to put their hands together. Upworthy. Retrieved from http://www.upworthy.com/no-one-applauds-this-woman-because-theyre-too-creeped-out-at-themselves-to-put-their-hands-together

Sherfey, J. (2016, February 17). What the fast-food industry’s shift to cage-free eggs really means. Eater. Retrieved from http://www.eater.com/2016/2/17/11009252/what-are-cage-free-eggs