Consumers have become more mindful of how food is produced, a recent study showed. The study revealed that consumers look for specific on-farm practices in making purchasing decisions such as no growth hormones and no genetically modified organisms. To carry out the study, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences determined seven specific food production attributes and identified which ones are most important to consumers in buying four different products beef, chicken, milk, and eggs.
The research team found that being free of growth hormones is the number one attribute that consumers consider in buying the products. The study also revealed that being non-GMO came in as a close second. Animals being raised in a humane setting was the third concern of buyers.
“The biggest surprise in the study is that ‘no growth hormones’ is the number one concern consumers have across the board on all of these products. It’s odd because growth hormones are already prohibited for poultry products. Further, products that are certified organic or humanely-raised also prohibit the use of growth hormones in animals. Ultimately, it means consumers are spending unnecessary time looking for labels that reflect this particular attribute,” said lead researcher Brenna Ellison.
The research team also identified four more production attributes that affect the consumers’ purchasing decision, which include: the animals being free of antibiotics, the animals being raised in a free-range environment, the animals being grass-fed or raised on a vegetarian diet, and the products being organic.
“Choosing to buy milk without traces of hormones or antibiotics may be driven more by concerns for our own health than the health of the animal. But treatment of the animal is also important to people. The results of the study show that consumers place a greater importance on the ‘humanely raised’ attribute for milk and eggs — animals that keep producing, versus those that go to slaughter,” Ellison added.
The findings were published in the journal Agriculture and Human Values.
Consumers support natural, non-GMO foods
The recent findings were reflective of previous research demonstrating the global consumers’ negative perception of GMOs. In fact, the market research firm Health Focus International surveyed 16 major global consumer markets in 2015 and found that 87 percent of consumers worldwide believed that non-GMO foods were either “somewhat” or “a lot” healthier to eat compared with GMO foods. The survey also revealed that 63 percent of global consumers agreed that GMO foods were “less safe to eat.” In addition, 55 percent of consumers believed that GMO foods were “worse for the environment.”
The survey also revealed that levels of GMO concern varied by country. According to the survey, 71 percent of Chinese consumers raised safety concerns against GMOs, as did 61 percent of Italians and 61 percent of Russians. The researchers also noted that 49 of Americans and 55 percent of Brazilians had similar concerns over GMOs’ safety. The survey also showed that 22 percent of Indians and 28 percent of British consumers had the same perception about the product.
“GMOs rank within the top five food concerns globally. GMO concern is even surpassing ingredient concerns such as sugar, sodium, hydrogenated oils and artificial ingredients,” the researchers noted.
In a related report, the market research firm Packaged Facts revealed that GMOs continue to be a safety concern among U.S. consumers. To assess this, researchers surveyed up to 2,000 Americans and found that 43 percent agreed that GMO food products are unsafe for consumption. The poll also showed that 42 percent of American consumers believed that GMO foods are detrimental to the environment. Furthermore, 39 percent of consumers believed that non-GMO foods have higher nutritional value.