SHOW REPORT: AMI conference tackles current events

by Erica Shaffer
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Attendees at the Animal Care and Handling Conference viewed an educational beef slaughter video produced by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and hosted by Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor at Colorado State Univ. and regular Meat&Poultry columnist. The conference was held in Kansas City, Mo. Oct. 17-18, and was a professional development opportunity for industry stakeholders at all levels of meat production.

Approximately 300 people attended the two-day conference, which included education tracks in cattle handling, pig handling plus management and policy.

The video was part of the many sessions held during the conference. The 10-minute production features Dr. Grandin walking viewers through a beef-plant tour. During the tour, she explains the ‘how and why’ behind various handling and slaughter practices. Janet Riley, senior vice president of AMI, was an effort to ‘inoculate’ consumers against bad animal handling videos by providing examples of animal handling performed correctly. More than 18,000 people have seen the video since it first aired on the AMI website and YouTube, Riley said. So far, it has received 120 ‘likes’ and 20 ‘dislikes’.

The video was screened by two consumer focus groups for feedback, and Dr. Wes Jamison, Palm Beach Atlantic Univ. in West Palm Beach, Fla. compiled the results. Riley said the focus groups provided important insight into the effectiveness of the video. For example, many focus group members commented on speed of slaughter operations and that cattle slaughter, when done correctly, is humane.

“They were relieved that this was not a prolonged process,” she said. Another participant commented that he was unaware that reflexive kicking after stunning is normal. Riley said the reflexive kicking is something that activists incorrectly say is indicative of a live animal.

The focus groups said they also didn’t see enough blood in the video and thought it was sanitized for consumers. Riley said AMI struggled with this particular issue.

“We had assumed that something was too much, but it was obviously not enough for them to feel it was credible,” she said. “So, we went back and added it.

“Dr. Jamison did follow up contact with all respondents and found that they all immediately returned to eating meat even if some of them were initially off-put by seeing the process,” Riley added.

Following the video’s release, some negative comments made included accusations that AMI paid Dr. Grandin to appear in the video. Riley confirmed that Dr. Grandin was not compensated for her participation in the project. Otherwise, the response was overwhelmingly positive. AMI is making a DVD of the video available to animal agriculture teachers and the Boy Scouts of America for the animal science merit badge.

“The demand for transparency is going to intensify; it is not going to ease,” Riley said. “I’m more and more convinced that we need to show aspects of our businesses before they are shown for us.”

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