Consumer Questions About Food Amanda Radke

Survey reveals consumer confusion about food labels

A new survey reveals three things about modern agriculture that confuse consumers the most.

Modern millennial moms are fortunate to have an abundance of choices when it comes to what they want to feed their young families. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse because with all of these choices comes a myriad of questions, concerns, doubts and mom guilt.

Is organic healthier? Is it really worth the higher sticker price? Should I be worried about hormones and antibiotics in my food? What if I can only afford the off-brand food? What are the best foods to offer my kids? Should I feel guilty giving them frozen instead of fresh products?

These are just a few of many questions I’ve seen asked recently on a Facebook group of local moms that I’m a part of. It’s evident that these millennial moms want to know more about the food they are purchasing, but because they are on a budget, they don’t want to feel guilty if they can’t afford the fancy label or purchase exclusively organic.

A recent survey sponsored by the Enough Movement revealed there is a great deal of conflicting information about food, nutrition and label claims, and that makes it extremely difficult for families to make decisions at the grocery store.

"The farm-to-table movement has revealed that we all want to know what's in our food and where it comes from," said registered dietitian Susan Finn, PhD, RD, FADA, in an Elanco press release about the survey. "But it's hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to food labels, farming practices, and other food production topics. Distinguishing myth from reality can make a big difference in the choices families make about nutrition, household budgets and environmental impact."

Here are three key findings from the survey:

1. Consumers believe all natural and organic foods are safer and healthier to eat.

According to the survey, “A whopping 99% of organic purchasers expressed confidence in their understanding of the organic label. Yet the data show a significant gap between their perceptions of what it actually means. The main motivation consumers report for buying organic – 82% – is because they believe organic foods to be pesticide free. Organic does not mean pesticide free. Organic farmers may use a variety of chemical sprays and powders on their crops manufactured from natural sources, including substances like boron, copper sulfate and pyrethrin1, similar to the synthetic versions used in modern farming.”

Additionally, two-thirds of the consumers surveyed also believe organic products are more nutritious.

According to the press release, “A landmark meta-analysis from Stanford University, which compiled data from 237 studies, concluded that there was no health or nutrition difference found between conventional and organically produced food.”

2. Consumers are confused about the no added hormones and no antibiotics labels

The survey revealed that, “more than 60% of consumers thought No Added Hormones meant there were no hormones in products with that label, while another 25% thought products with this label were higher quality. Meanwhile, about one-third of consumers believed antibiotic free meant non-labeled products contained antibiotics.”

Yet, Elanco points out that all living things contain hormones; no added hormones are used in pork or poultry production; and in beef and dairy production, hormone levels in food from animals supplemented with hormones are nearly identical to those that aren't. Plus, hormones in naturally hormone-rich foods like cabbage and soy contain far higher levels than meat, milk and eggs. And regardless of whether an animal was sick and treated with an antibiotic or was raised entirely without antibiotics, the food you buy is free from any harmful antibiotic residue.

3. Consumers have slanted views of modern agriculture

According to the survey, “More than half of survey respondents (52%) believe that the majority of farms are run by corporations. In the United States, 97% of farms are family owned and 88% are small family farms. The percentage of family-owned farms globally is 90%.”

What’s more, “nearly 70% of survey respondents choose organic foods because they believe they're better for the environment. Organic farming produces less food – about 25% less on average. It requires significantly more land and resources to produce the same yield as modern farming methods. For example, to have raised all U.S. crops as organic in 2014, farmers would have required an additional 109 million acres of land, about the size of California.”

These survey results prove that producers need to continue to engage and share their agricultural stories with consumers. We need to find common values, make it a priority to relate to our customers and take the time to explain these labels and modern production practices. Most importantly, we need to work hard to alleviate the guilt, correct the misinformation and provide transparent information that our consumers can trust.
 
Based on the survey, the Enough Movement is sharing the "Truth About Food," a program to bring accurate, fact-based information to spark discussion and dispel misunderstanding. Information about the campaign can be found by clicking here.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

TAGS: Beef Quality
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