Modern buzzwords about American agriculture and food production lead many to believe consumers are most concerned with how livestock are raised, but two qualities often left out of the conversation still rank at the top.

The decision to include country of origin labeling in the new Farm Bill was a hot topic in the past month and product labels may contain additional animal welfare information, but findings from Kansas State University show consumers are still most concerned about food safety and freshness.

The shift in attention towards livestock products raised with more restrictive guidelines reveals consumers may be taking the basic qualities of American agriculture for granted. A team at Kansas State University used online responses from 1,950 individuals nationwide to find what food values were most important.

The survey found the priority on food safety and freshness was consistent across all four food products on the survey: beef steak, ground beef, milk and chicken.

Respondents put less of an emphasis on animal welfare practices, convenience, origins of the product, environmental issues and antibiotic and hormone free products.  Kansas State livestock economist Ted Schroder says those traits may still be important to consumers, however they are less important than the other factors.

The study is increasingly important as high beef prices test consumer demand for the product. Results found some individuals set price as a high-value factor, but overall results show price was lower on the list of 11 traits considered.

The study on traits that consumers prioritize when they are purchasing livestock products was led by Kansas State livestock economist Ted Schroder and graduate student researchers Garrett Lister, Marcus Brix and Chen Yang. It builds on a similar study conducted at the university in 2009 which also found freshness and safety to be the two highest valued qualities.