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Research Reveals What MI Consumers Want From Ag
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Improved transparency increases consumer trust in food. A new study from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), supported by the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee (MSPC), proves it and identifies the most effective practices for building consumer trust.


Source: Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee

Contact: Gail Frahm, gfrahm@michigansoybean.org

Research Reveals What Michigan Consumers Want from Ag and Food to Earn Their Trust


I
mproved transparency increases consumer trust in food. A new study from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), supported by the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee (MSPC), proves it and identifies the most effective practices for building consumer trust.

“This study shows that increasing transparency in farming will increase consumer trust,” said Gail Frahm, executive director at MSPC. “Supporting research through a credible, non-biased organization such as CFI helps soybean promoters and others within our industry develop messages to use when engaging with consumers.”

The research focused on six specific areas that are important to consumers:

1. Impact of Food on Health
2. Food Safety
3. Impact on the Environment
4. Human/Labor Rights
5. Treatment of Animals Raised for Food
6. Business Ethics in Food Production
 
The Survey Says

An online survey of 2,000 people across the country asked which is more important to consumers when it comes to demonstrating trust-building transparency — policies, practices, performance or verification. The survey shows an organization’s practices are most important in five of the six areas.

Consumers want to know more about what farmers are actually doing in these important areas, because actions demonstrate values. CFI research shows that communicating with values is three-to-five times more important to building trust than simply providing information. Consumers also want the ability to engage by asking questions through an organization’s website and they expect straight answers in a timely fashion. The practices include such things as offering engagement opportunities through websites, making results of third-party audits publicly available and providing information on product labels.

When it comes to farmers, food companies, grocery stores or restaurants, the survey asked who consumers hold most responsible for providing transparency. Nationally, consumers hold food companies responsible in all six areas. Michigan’s results differed slightly.

“Michigan consumers hold farmers most responsible for providing transparency when it comes to farm animal care,” said Frahm. “In all of the other areas, it’s food companies.”

Are we on Track?

Is the U.S. food system headed in the right direction or down the wrong track? The question was posed to survey respondents for the fourth-straight year. Nearly one-half (47 percent) of those surveyed in Michigan said “right direction” – seven percent higher than the national response. One in four people in Michigan say “wrong track,” with the remainder unsure. When CFI first asked the question four years ago, only 30 percent of the respondents nationally said “right direction.”

Food a Top Issue

Survey participants also rated their level of concern on a list of life issues including broad areas such as healthcare costs, unemployment, personal financial situation, global warming/climate change, food safety and food availability. Half of the top six issues of concern in Michigan are related to food. While rising health costs and the U.S. economy topped the list, the rising cost of food came in third while keeping healthy food affordable and food safety tied for fifth.

Michigan Trusts Farmers

In questions asked specifically of Michigan survey respondents, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they trust farmers to grow/raise safe food. Over 60 percent also said they prefer to buy Michigan-grown products and that they would buy more of them if they were easier to find.

Informed Consumer Decisions

CFI’s annual consumer trust survey is intended to help the food system better understand what it takes to earn and maintain consumer trust. Providing insight that increases consumer engagement will help consumers make informed decisions and help align food system practices with consumer values and expectations.

The 2015 CFI research report offers highlights of the research and is available at www.foodintegrity.org. Those interested in learning more can contact CFI at LearnMore@FoodIntegrity.org or 816.880.5360.