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Can You Trust Online Reviews?

January 28, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe believe in transparency.  Have a question? Ask! We’ll answer it. We know many people who are the same way. As I’m preparing tonight to host the Twitter #agchat of from field to plate agvocacy, it strikes me that in today’s world, we can’t totally rely on online reviews.

You see, food has become political. Reviews are supposed to be a measure of satisfaction (or not) with the service or product. It’s supposed to come from customers.

Today our friends at John’s Custom Meats – who not only farm but are the small business processors that allow places like us to do what we do and be able to sell to others – have received some negative reviews online from people that were never customers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnimal rights harassment, from vegetarians and vegans who not only don’t eat meat (so couldn’t have been customers)  but don’t want you to eat it either. These are good people. The kind of people that aim for humane care of those animals brought to them and a quick end. They process the meat on a custom basis. Recently, in a means to reach out and serve more than just their local community, they opened an online store.

We’ve eaten meat from their place. We’ve gotten to know Amy and more recently John (online), and will entrust them with our animals to turn them into meat when we get to that level. They aren’t a huge operation, and don’t have the employee help of Tyson’s and Smithfield’s. They just have customers, many who are not online.

Without places like John’s Custom Meats, those wanting direct purchase USDA options have none. Without processors as a link, there’s much less in the world of food choices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd with people leaving ‘reviews’ who are against the slaughter of animals for any reason, it shows that reviews are no longer an accurate means of whether you should support a place or not. There are people in totally different areas that log onto websites solely to talk trash about a place they don’t support on principle.

That can be misleading for people looking for an honest review when facing dozens of dishonest comments that you don’t know if it’s true or not. Unfortunately, people aren’t always nice. They target farms, processors, stores and people they don’t like. It distorts the view would be customers see, and decreases their income. After a while they close, no longer able to afford the cost of business.

What does that do if you want to purchase from one of the farms they serve? Farmer’s markets, restaurants, direct purchase, CSAs – all of those customers rely on John’s Custom Meats. Other processors across the country are not that different.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, this isn’t the only place targeted with smear campaigns. Activists have vowed to stop everything from hunting to medical research to food to entertainment that uses animals. They have threatened children and teens, directly putting them at risk printing addresses and wishing unspeakable acts of violence which I won’t repeat here.

So when you look at online reviews, consider your own experience. Try a place before looking the way based on an online review that may or may not be true. Talk to them directly. Remember that they can only process what’s brought to them – if it’s not the quality  wanted, that’s on the farm that raised it.

Shopping and making contacts online is a great way to empower your food choices. Those places serving up choices need your support. Don’t withdraw it because of a review that isn’t true.

Preserve food choices for all.

Sadly, not everyone is who they seem to be, or as honest as they appear. Food choices depend on all links of the food chain connecting. Please don’t help cut the links.

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