Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health, has strongly criticised the activist movement as in his view demands for e.g. animal welfare, more environment and a total ban on antibiotics are blocking innovation and technology.
Simmons spoke at the Sixth International Forum on Swine Production, during the PorkExpo in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil. He introduced the freedoms of innovation, choice and trade. These together, he stated, could solve hunger and poverty as the use of technology leads to efficiency in swine production, which in turn leads to affordable pork.
Simmons pointed to the recent European ban on cages for layers – and suggested that there would be a shortage of eggs in supermarkets. The same would apply to California. In his view, the bans mean a step back in terms of efficiency. He said: “In Europe, there is a lack of innovation and a lack of good practices.”
Taste, cost, nutrition
Simmons quoted a broad literature study involving 97,000 consumers – and said 95% of consumers prefer ‘taste, cost and nutrition’ as important when purchasing meat. Only 5% would be choosing ‘luxury’ or ‘organic’.
A minority of only 1%, Simmons continued, ‘want to take consumers’ choice away’. “They act as a government, but this fringe can really change the cost of agriculture. And that is why we need to stand up now.”
Simmons played a video by Willie Nelson, called ‘the Scientist’, on behalf of fast food chain Chipotle, in which the Mexican food brand suggested to ‘go back to the start’, producing meat like it used to be in the past. Simmons said in his view this misrepresents reality. “Produced in this way, swine production takes more environment. If all meat was produced this way, going back to the start would be bad for the environment. This is not marketing with integrety.”
He continued, “If you want to do this – fine. But don’t claim it is better.”
Simmons said, while speaking at Harvard, he found himself confronted with many students who did not agree with his views. Simmons said, “I saw how passionate they were. They didn’t have the numbers and facts right, but still, they were taking action and speaking up. That is what I learnt from the other side. I came home converted: I’m going to be an activist!”
Addressing the pig farmers in the audience, he closed off, saying: “99% of the world may be quiet. But they want what you do.”
Simmons’ presentation was received with a long applause and passionate acclaim.