Each month Oklahoma State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics surveys approximately 1,000 individuals across the country to determine how their willingness-to-pay for specific popular food items changes month-over-month. It also queries respondents regarding food values, top food issues of concern, and generally includes multiple “ad hoc” questions each month on various food-related issues. While the latest issue of the survey includes the normal willingness-to-pay data, the ad hoc questions tackled hot button issues, including food safety, the dietary guidelines and egg production systems.

The first ad hoc question related to food safety perception for food purchased a farmers’ market versus a supermarket. Of the respondents, about 45 percent of respondents thought food from a farmers’ market is neither more nor less likely to cause food borne illness than food purchased at a supermarket. About 28 percent thought food from a farmers’ market was more likely to cause food borne illness while 27 percent thought food from a supermarket was more safe.

The second question related to the ongoing process to update the federal dietary guidelines. The survey presented respondents with 11 true, false or I don’t know questions. Approximately 41 percent of respondents said the committee’s dietary advice is not trustworthy. Nearly 53 percent of respondents said dietary recommendations should consider impacts on the environment. Almost two-thirds of respondents believe the recommendations will change in 10 years. Slightly more than half of the respondents knew the committee’s report recommended eating less meat.

The final question asked the following question:  “In 2008, 63% of voters in California voted to ban the use of small cages for egg-laying hens. However, at the time around 90 to 95% of the eggs Californians purchased came from small cages and only 5 to 10% were cage free. So, a majority of voters voted to ban a product that a majority of shoppers routinely bought. Why do you think there is such a gap between how people voted and how they shopped for different types of eggs?”

The question was open ended, but there were common themes, including 46 percent of respondents replying with some version of “I don’t know.” Other common themes included people did not know they were buying eggs from hens that were in small cages; price of cage free versus small cage systems; the availability of cage free eggs, and more.

With regard to the monthly willingness-to-pay data, consumers were willing to dig deeper in the wallets for all of the food categories except for steak, which dropped less than one-half of a percent (from $7.92 per pound to $7.89 per pound). Consumers reported that they were willing to pay 11.55 percent more for pork chops ($4.25 per pound compared to $3.81 per pound last month), 8.32 percent more for chicken breasts, and 1.54 percent more for hamburger.

Taste, safety and nutrition were the most important values for consumers when they make food purchasing decisions, a similar trend from recent months. There was an 8.43 percent increase in the challenge of losing weight from February to March, according to survey respondents.

To read the full survey, click here