I’ve been directly involved with the feed industry for more than 10 years, and the issue of “money under the table” is one of the most pervasive concerns I’ve seen between dairy producers and independent consultants. We’ve all heard about these deals, usually one guy referring to “the other consultant” down the road. Last year, a colleague of mine (we’ll call him Mike) told me about a situation he’d encountered.
Mike had met with a salesperson from a feed ingredient supplier, who was trying to convince Mike to try their product in Mike’s custom vitamin-mineral premix that went into clients' dairy rations. In addition to the technical nutrition information about the product, the salesperson also made an offer to Mike that involved a monetary incentive to change to the new product. At the time the offer was made, it wasn’t clear whether the company would pay the incentive to Mike or to his dairy customers.
Mike assumed the offer was to him and was very affronted. He considered it an insult to his integrity and professionalism. He strongly believes that an independent consultant should make feeding recommendations based on sound nutritional science, and as an ARPAS (American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists) member he adheres to the ARPAS Code of Ethics. Mike declined the offer, and did not switch products in his vitamin-mineral mix.
The ARPAS Code of Ethics doesn’t allow its members to accept compensation, financial or otherwise, from more than one source without full disclosure to all parties involved. Mike’s situation was pretty black and white, but we’ve probably all been involved in situations that weren’t so clear-cut. For ARPAS members, the professional code of ethics is a good guideline for these type of situations. Dairy producers rely on independent consultants and feed industry professionals for sound recommendations that are not biased by financial considerations, the same as they rely on veterinarians and accountants.
For dairy producers, having a consultant, whether he or she is independent or a company representative, who is ARPAS certified provides assurance that the likelihood of unethical behavior by the consultant is reduced. Is your consultant ARPAS certified and a member in good standing? Have you asked? You can check by searching the ARPAS directory online. PD
Joanne Knapp, Ph.D. PAS, is the president and owner of Fox Hollow Consulting. She provides scientific and technical expertise to companies in the food, feed and pharmaceutical industries. She is currently serving as Midwest director for National ARPAS and is president of the Midwest ARPAS Chapter. She can be contacted by email or by calling (559) 788-9695.