What rhymes with horse?
The quote History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme is attributed to author Mark Twain. The quote seemed appropriate when thinking about the parallels between the BSE debacle from 1989 through to 1990 and the current concern over contamination of meat in prepared foods.
Online polling company Usurv published some interesting findings about the British public’s attitude to the debacle. Just over a third of respondents would be consuming less prepared meats such as kebabs, burgers, salami and Cornish pasties.
A quarter of respondents said that they would be visiting burger joints less often (and about 40 per cent claimed they never visit them anyway). This all mirrored a similar reaction when precautions against BSE were put in place in 1989. All this really needs now is a cringe-worthy PR stunt like when John Gummer tried to feed his daughter a burger in a pre-arranged event at his Suffolk constituency the following spring.
From a PR consultancy point-of-view; there is a lot of reputational work that whole swathes of the services sector need to do. Everyone from agribusiness trade bodies to convenience food brands and restaurant chains need good strategic counsel and a PR programme designed to map a route back to trust amongst consumers. This isn’t a 90-day campaign or even 12 months work, but a concerted ongoing effort will be required.
The most valuable aspect of digital initially will be in measurement, monitoring and analysis. Over time, digital channels could provide a revolution in food transparency if accompanied by different business processes, providing traceability from hoof to plate. But consumers also need to realise that cheap has consequences; which is a hard sell in economically challenging times.
A secondary challenge could be a new generation of vegans; after they scan a QCode on their Happy Meal and realise that their burger was once called Daisy and used to live in a field in Cheshire with 72 other members of her herd.