The agricultural industry is taking steps to better understand today’s consumers. A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), presented the results of consumers perceptions of food production. In a previous, iGrow article entitled, Dialoguing with consumers – What do consumers hear?, I outlined some of the study results of consumers’ interpretations of key messages presented by food production agriculture. This article, will share additional results.
Consumers are interested in how their food is produced. The study found that 58% of consumers frequently think about how the food they eat is grown or raised and 71% say they have “serious or some concerns” about the methods that conventional, non-organic agriculture uses. In addition, 53% wonder frequently if the food they buy is safe.
Consumers are favorable to farmers and ranchers however, they are not as favorable toward the methods used in farming and ranching. When asked about their attitude toward “the farmers and ranchers who grow our food,” 75% of the respondents were very/somewhat favorable, 21% neither and 5% very/somewhat unfavorable. But when asked about their attitude toward “the way food is grown and raised,” 42% of respondents were very/somewhat favorable, 31% neither and 27% very/somewhat unfavorable. The respondents reported that when they see images of farmers and farm families they usually associate them with organic or local food only.
Digging deeper to learn more about what concerns the consumers the most about the way food is produced, the overall study results concluded 37% of the respondents were concerned about unintended long-term health effects, 23% worry about the poor treatment of animals, 12% are concerned about environmental harm, 11% expressed concern about unintended short-term health effects and 17% said they were not concerned with the issues of short or long-term health effects, the treatment of animals or environmental harm.
Several practices made consumers uncomfortable and thus less trusting about food production agriculture. The results indicated that 55% of the consumers measured were uncomfortable with the supplementing of naturally occurring animal hormones and 49% were uncomfortable with the industry using pesticides on crops. The results determined consumers don’t like some of the production methods, but more so they are not educated about the methods. If the method is put in the wrong context the production practices can be confusing to consumers and impact trust levels. For example, the study found even the use of water in food production if not explained in the right context concerned consumers.
The study commissioned by the USFRA consisted of an online survey completed by a cross section of consumers (n=1,400) who are involved in making food decisions and purchases for their household, a selection of consumers ranked in the top 20% of society based on income and/or education and food communicators (professionals who influence those outside their immediate family’s food decisions). More information about USFRA can be found at www.usfraonline.org. The USFRA is an alliance of 75 farmer-and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners.