The Arizona survey also found that 77 percent of the participants were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the treatment of farm animals, 58 percent said that “corporate farms” treat their animals less humanely than “family farms”, and 65 percent believe laws are necessary to require farmers to treat farm animals humanely.

So why does such a high percentage of the population have little faith in farmers respect for the environment we all live in and their concern for the animals they raise?

One common held believe is most U.S. residents have no reference point on how their food is being produced. The vast majority are at least three generations removed from the farm. In fact, fewer than 2 percent of the U.S. population live or work on a farm, and only 17 percent live in rural areas. Residents who have never been on a ‘real’ farm rely on the media and the Internet for information on farming and food production.

Often, special interest groups and non-governmental organizations (NGO) with specific agendas have fulfilled the role of providing this information on the U.S. food producer. Meeting the goals of the NGO/special interest group, the information provided is often misleading, intended to incite the reader and only serve the interest of the group. Unfortunately for agriculture, the best farmers are usually not selected for the evening news. People believe what they see — after all it did really happen, there’s video proof!

Among all this confusion and misinformation lies opportunity for livestock farmers. Urban and city residents maintain high regard for the farmers and ranchers who produce their food. Research by the National Pork Board (NPB) and reported in the Board’s “Neighbor to Neighbor” program, shows “farming and ranching” are the fourth highest regarded professions behind only teachers, veterinarians and physicians. This esteem for farmers and ranchers offers the opportunity to impact the public’s perception of food production. By using this credibility and communicating directly with the consumers, farmers have the opportunity to positively impact consumers attitude on food production, farming and ranching’s impact on the environment and farm animal care.

Farmers should challenge themselves to give people another reference point — one provided by a good producer and one the public can relate to personally. Whether it is hosting a group on your farm, or going out into the public and presenting your story to local service organizations or supporting your neighbor when they open their farm for a tour, you must get out and talk honestly about the good work you do every day. Tell people you care about the welfare of your animals and how you live on the land and are concerned about the environment too.

Resources are readily available to help you get started. Most commodity organizations and MSUExtension have resources available to help you tell your story.