A majority of Americans believe our food system is headed in the right direction, but some are confused about food purchases and many want more information about how their food is produced, according to results of a survey from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA).

The 53 percent of survey respondents indicating U.S. food production is headed in the right direction represents an improvement from 48 percent in the group’s first consumer survey in 2011. However, 59 percent of respondents indicated they would like more information about how the food they purchase is produced, while 27 percent of all consumers and 38 percent of young adults say they are confused about food purchases.

Food priorities differ somewhat depending on whether people are dining out or cooking at home, according to the survey results. When dining out, 48 percent rate quality as the top priority, 42 percent focus more on cost and 38 percent say taste is the top priority. But when purchasing food for home consumption, cost becomes more important, with 47 percent listing it as the top priority. Forty-three percent ranked quality and 21 percent identified healthiness/nutrition as their top priorities for food-at-home purchases.

Ninety-one percent of respondents believe availability of healthy food choices is critical, even if those foods are not labeled as organic or locally produced.

USFRA also surveyed farmers and ranchers to measure their perceptions of consumer attitudes. Most – 76 percent – believe the average consumer has very little to no knowledge about food production and 59 percent believe consumers have an inaccurate perception of today's agriculture.

USFRA currently is engaged in several initiatives to foster better transparency and dialog between food producers and consumers. A series of “Food Dialogues” events over the past 14 months have have compelled key customers, influencers and detractors to join the dialogue with farmers and ranchers about today's food production. The FoodSource section of the FoodDialogues website provides objective information on key food issues such as antibiotic use in agriculture, animal welfare, biotechnology and food safety.

In 2012, the group launched its “Faces of Farming and Ranching” initiative to identify U.S. farmers and ranchers to represent agriculture in communications with consumers. One hundred and eighteen farmers and ranchers applied, and USFRA plans to announce the winners on January 22, 2013. Over the next year, the group plans to launch an aggressive national consumer media outreach effort featuring these real-life farmers and ranchers telling their stories.

Read more from USFRA.