Sarah Ison

Clermont County board member Sarah Ison attended the Animal Agriculture Alliance Confernce in Arlington, Virginia. Below is a blog about her experience.

Partners in Progress was this year’s slogan for the Animal Agriculture Alliance
conference held May 4-5, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia. The Animal Ag Alliance safeguards the
future of animal agriculture and its value to society by bridging the communication gap between farm and food communities. This 501(c)(3) connects key food industry stakeholders: farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, animal health companies, processors and allied associates involved in getting food from the farm to customers tables.

This year I had the honor of attending this powerful and thought-provoking conference
that equips attendees with a framework to address issues that face animal agriculture. The
opening session keynote by Ray A. Starling took a look at the outside forces forging the future of farming and food. There is a growing consensus by critics that the food system is ‘broken’ – from animal welfare, feeding, and climate influence. Why is there this divide that seems to be pulling away at the agricultural industry, particularly, animal agriculture?

The question arises about where and how are these critics against animal agriculture
gaining traction. They started taking a look at historical influences into the animal agriculture industry and how outside dollars were driving change. These dollars were driven by consumers 15-25 years ago, and within 5-15 years retailers were leading the change, and now investors are contributing to the idea of fixing the supposed problem. As a rancher and animal scientist I appreciate that there is someone who wants to keep me accountable for how I raise my livestock and ensure that I am providing safe and nutritious food to feed my community. However, we need to be diligent in sharing that there are more than two sides to every issue. The food system is not broken and it is not just all so good we can sit back and allow to happen what happens. Farmers and ranchers are doing a great job but there is always room improvement and ‘WE’ as farmers/ranchers are okay to acknowledge and act on allowing change ensuring that we are doing the best for our animals, customers, and the environment.

Animal agriculture needs to do more work horizontally not vertically when it comes to
sharing the story or describing why things are done the way they are at a farm level. Don’t simply justify CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) by saying they feed a growing population or that it’s because 13.1% of the US population is living in poverty. Investors and customers want to know deeper. They want an understanding of how all of the factors that impact the livestock industry like weather, inputs, markets, etc. cause higher prices at the meat counter.

When we look at the food system and responses to how the industry is doing, we need to
remember why it matters in sharing our story. Be honest with customers, compete with those who are sharing a narrative that want to eliminate nutritious animal-derived protein (not your farming neighbor), and have an action plan in place in the instance your farm is faced with negative animal agricultural advocates. Read that last sentence again. It was recommended to not use the animal/agricultural advocate tagline as it is being utilized in driving the negative narrative. This was a first hearing this for me and I appreciate the work of the alliance to keep up with trends.

For more information visit

Article 1 of 2: Written by Sarah Ison, PhD. @beefdrsarah
Sarah is a Clermont County Ohio Farm Bureau board member and Ohio Cattlemen’s
Association District 10 board of directors member

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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