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The students used Facebook to record the progress and their impressions of the trip.
When it comes
to livestock farming and meat production, opinions tend to differ: Consumers
want small farmers who personally care for every sow and cow. They equate intensive
livestock farming with horrific photos of tortured creatures.
For their part,
livestock producers feel heavily burdened by regulations on animal protection and hygiene
on the one side and pricing on the other. They do their best and feel unfairly treated.
So agronomy students, who are full of idealism and normally know only limited
areas of the discipline from practical experience, face having to adjust to a
Evonik gave 10 animal nutrition students the opportunity to form a realistic
impression of the agricultural industry in Europe--a three-week trip, organized by the Health &
Nutrition Business Unit. The objectives of the project are to promote young
talents in a key industry, cultivate their loyalty to Evonik and win
them over as ambassadors. More over it gives our business partners the chance
to present themselves in a positive light and correct the meat production industry's image.
Put to the test in the Assessment Center
Another aim of
the trip is to explore ways in which social media might be used to address
young target agriculture groups. For this reason, the central communication platform for
the Ag Trip was a Facebook page. This page was the only place students could
find the invitation to apply for the trip, and the only place to submit
At the same time, the business unit advertised the trip through a
poster campaign and a letter to agronomy chairs at European universities. Thirty-six
applicants were invited to an assessment center, where they had to demonstrate
commitment, creativity and ability to work in a team. Finally 10 students from
eight countries were selected for the Ag Trip.
two groups, “Team 1” went through Germany,
the Netherlands, Belgium, France
“Team 2” traveled to Rumania,
Hungary, Poland, Spain
They visited Evonik customers and other key partners in the food production
chain - independent terminal operator for agriculture goods J. Müller in Brake,
feed producers like ForFarmers or Sano; integrated poultry companies like
Wiesenhof and Rothkötter or the turkey meat producer Heidemark.
staff provided services for Ag Trip participants. Some of the students' tasks
included documenting their trip experiences on Facebook, making them available
in public and working on two projects with relevance for Evonik.
Facebook travel diary
To keep their
journals, the two groups were provided with laptops and video cameras. The
reports, photos and films are still available on www.facebook.com/evonikfeedadditives.
The agricultural operations were more than willing to grant the students access
to every area. In most cases, students were also allowed to film what they saw
- whether it was a barn, warehouse, laboratory, or slaughterhouse.
The trip was designed to give the students an inside view of careers in modern agriculture.
their current level of knowledge, the students were impressed by what they saw.
For example, the growth dynamics of the functional
feed additive company EW Nutrition, part of the EW Group; the efficiency of the turkey farms at Moorgut Kartzfehn; the
dimensions in which petfood is produced at MARS; the organization of the
Sterksel Pig Innovation Research Centre - a seemingly simple yet highly
functional place where pigs even learn to use a "toilet"; the
complexity of the MetAMINO® production in Antwerp; the near-natural
poultry production system at the Loué "Label Rouge" operation in
A plea for transparency
Protection" was the theme on the agenda of “Team 1.” In gathering
information, the students focused on the points of view and efforts of all
participants in the food production chain and contrasted them with the
consumer's point of view.
When it comes to feed production, they found out that
consumers lack even the slightest idea of how hard producers work to
manufacture feed that is free from antibiotic residues and the products of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Between farmer and consumer, they see a
big acceptance problem with intensive livestock farming.
Consumers simply do
not understand the agricultural industry. They want farmers to nurture every
animal personally. On the other hand, they take no notice of high animal
protection standards and the farmers' efforts in the area of hygiene. Many
people also viewed the sheer quantity of processed animals as the primary
problem with animal slaughter. In Denmark,
Ag Trip participants were able to experience how animals are killed nowadays,
respectfully. The students found less criticism aimed at the areas of milk and
conclusion: on the manufacturing side, consumer protection is provided. What is
missing is the acceptance of consumers towards intensive livestock farming.
solution: the agricultural industry must make further advances in animal
protection and provide greater transparency. The students cited the Danish
company Arla, which offers guided tours through its mink farm as a role model
for this approach. Why not have windows in stables and video cameras in
slaughterhouses installed? These were a few of the suggestions from the project
work. Consumer enlightenment was further mentioned – also by using media.
from “Team 2” found highly developed agricultural operations in the Eastern
European countries they visited under the theme "Europe
as Meat Production Site." What they discovered: The developing Eastern
European countries can function as meat exporters to price-sensitive European
markets. This will likely intensify the competition within Europe.
By surveying consumers, they found out how much they value fresh meat and
With their new
appreciation of the agricultural industry, the students on the Ag Trip are sure
to help improve the industry's image in their individual spheres of influence. They
will stay in touch with Evonik and work with the company during trade shows and
similar occasions. And in the near future, they will also become players in the
agricultural economy themselves - whether as farmers, academics or company
experience will be continued. The Evonik American Ag Trip for 2013
is in preparation.
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