Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at Yale University on Tuesday and said he likes how social media is causing a change in the way big-business producers like McDonald's create their food.
"If you look at what's happened with some of our fast food restaurants and the way in which they're changing menus, that's not driven by regulation," Vilsack said. "It's not driven by animal welfare issues. It's driven by the market. The market is essentially establishing a standard through social media, and then calling out folks who aren't meeting the social standard."
McDonald's and other producers have since stopped using meat fillers like so-called "Pink Slime," a low-cost product approved by the USDA that got a lot negative feedback online.
As the conversation about food and where it comes from continues in America, Vilsack says he'd like to see more consumer sensitivity about the ethical and financial challenges facing America's 2.3 million farmers.
"There are a number of farmers who care deeply about the animals they raise and I think there is a disconnect between farmers and the rest of the country," Vilsack said. "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the country doesn't farm. We are many generations removed from the farm. There's a frustration on the part of many farmers in terms of how hard they work, the amount of risk that they take, the safety issues that they confront."
According to census data, about 2,700 people in the state list farming as their primary occupation.