When it comes to purchasing livestock products – milk, ground beef, beef steak and chicken breast – consumers put most value in safety and freshness according to a nationwide survey conducted by Kansas State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics.

Led by Ted Schroeder, professor and livestock economist for K-State Research and Extension, a group of faculty and graduate students compared consumer values for livestock-specific products with prior research related to consumers’ general food values. The prior research, by Lusk and Briggeman in 2009, found that safety, nutrition, taste, price and natural were consumers’ top five values out of a group of 11 potential values.

According to a research paper that accompanied the K-State survey, the four products were chosen because they are all products of the livestock industry; they represent a variety of animal products and include a relatively low and high cost product of the safe species; and they are relatively common in the average American diet. The K-State survey modified the original list of 11 values to make it more consistent with livestock products and included freshness, health, hormone free/antibiotic-free, animal welfare, taste, price, safety, convenience, nutrition, origin and environmental impact. A total of 1,950 people from the around the nation responded to the survey.

The findings of the K-State study were consistent with the prior research. Safety was the most important value in the prior research and it ranked either first or second by respondents to the survey. Freshness was the other top value. Price of the product fell in the middle of the list, and the values for environmental impact, animal welfare, origin and convenience were the less important for consumers purchasing ground beef, beef steak, milk and chicken breasts.

Schroeder said this study and the prior research show consumers want products that deliver a “high quality eating experience” and that understanding consumer food value preference helps food producers and distributors better meet the demand of their customers.

“Freshness, nutritional components and health attributes are desirable, and consumers absolutely demand a product that is safe,” Schroeder said. “These are messages we’ve been saying for a long time, and they’ve shown up remarkably strong across all four of these particular products.”

A research paper explaining the findings of the K-State survey is available online