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The man credited with inventing this law, sociologist Robert K Merton, listed five possible causes of unanticipated consequences: Ignorance (it is impossible to anticipate everything, thereby

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leading to incomplete analysis) Error (incorrect analysis of the problem or following habits

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that worked in the past but may not apply to the current situation) Immediate interests, which may override long-term

interests Basic values may require or prohibit certain actions even

if the long-term result might be unfavourable (these long- term consequences may eventually cause changes in basic values) Self-defeating prophecy (fear of some consequence drives

people to find solutions before the problem occurs, thus the non-occurrence of the problem is unanticipated).

In addition to these, it is said there is also something called ‘the

relevance paradox’, in which decision makers think they know their areas of ignorance about an issue, and obtain information to address it; but they neglect other areas of ignorance, because an absence of information makes its relevance not obvious. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once put this famously and rather more succinctly as “unknown unknowns”.5 (See reference for the longer quote, it’s exquisite). Then, just when I’m running out of material, into my inbox

drops the excellent AgriTrade News weekly e-newsletter. It reports that prominent British MEP Neil Parish, a farmer and former chair of the European Parliament’s Agriculture committee, has said Europe should review the post-BSE ban on meat and bonemeal (MBM), to be fair with the proviso that there should be no intra-species use of the material.6 He was speaking at the National Office of Animal Health’s Feeding

the World conference in London and, with such delicious timing, called the continuing MBM ban “a huge waste of protein”. Of course, the unfortunate Mr Parish wasn’t to know that he ought to know, but didn’t, how a 14% reduction in the cholesterol content of eggs and a 64% increase in bone-protecting, osteoporosis-preventing vitamin D was being linked to the withdrawal of MBM from poultry rations. If this was a conversation between us, the next gambit would be, “So who’s going to tell the BEIC, you or me?” But as it’s not, I’ll probably beat you to it. Back down to earth in the day-to-day decision making of a busy

UK feed mill, one practical upshot from all this is how it demonstrates the importance of being extra vigilant for unknown unknowns when considering whether to adopt new or different feed ingredients. Regardless of whether New Ingredient X is a macro- or micro- ingredient, maybe a bit more digging than usual into the supplier’s or manufacturer’s R&D is warranted, just to make sure that they’ve looked hard enough and long enough for unknown unknowns before bringing it to market. Otherwise, how do you differentiate between a genuine nutritional breakthrough and the next variant of snake oil?

HATS OFF TO BRITISH EGG INDUSTRY Inspired by all this good news to enjoy a two-egg omelette for breakfast this morning, I am grateful that a bare cupboard prompted a quick visit to the local Co-op where evidence of the egg industry’s innovative marketing was on full view. In plain grey ‘simply value’ packaging were 10 Class A ‘free range eggs of different sizes’ for £1.99. Yes please. Or you could have a very pretty little pack of four organic eggs

(bottom left in picture), for £1.25. There were also Happy Eggs, an Oakland brand, and the bright green packs with a prominent Union Flag on the top containing the Co-op brand of graded eggs in medium and large sizes.

Among even this moderate amount of choice was a variety of

prices, quantities, sizes and brands of the product. Cynics might say this is a ‘confuse and rule’ marketing policy because it makes it impossible for shoppers to fix an easy pence-per-egg benchmark in their heads. But contrast this with the shambles that is milk marketing, which helps us all understand and remember four-pints-for-99p.


1. Sophie Borland, 14 Feb 2011. Scramble back to eggs! Daily Mail. 2. American Egg Board, 8 Feb 2011. New study shows large eggs are 14 percent lower in cholesterol & 64 percent higher in vitamin D. PR Newswire: cholesterol-115547959.html viewed 16 Feb 2011. 3. BEIC, viewed 16 Feb 2011. Egg sales rocket. http://www.nutritionandeggs. 4., viewed 16 Feb 2011. 5., viewed 16 Feb 2011: “…… statement was made by Rumsfeld on February 12, 2002 at a press briefing where he addressed the absence of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. ‘[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.’ “ 6. AgriTrade News, 18 Feb 2011. MEP calls for more GM protein and MBM in Europe. Vol 4, No 6.

Screenings is sponsored by Compound Feed Engineering Ltd FEED COMPOUNDER MARCH 2011 PAGE 21

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