Where does your food come from? Well just pick up any local grocery flyer and you may see a familiar face. But now I am confused. Which farmer raises the best product? Which store should I choose?
Like many other consumers, I scour the local grocery advertisements to see what is on sale this week. Recently, I have been put in a quandary. Two large grocery store chains are using photos of farm families alongside their produce. I know their individual name, farm name, hometown and state. So, now how do I choose? By location? By farm name? Do they use chemicals or pesticides? Or is it grown organically?
The move toward putting a face with our food, I believe, is a result of a 2011 survey by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance asking if the buying public would like to have more information about where their food comes from. The survey found that 72% of consumers knew nothing or very little about farming or ranching. For 70% of respondents, how food is grown and raised has an impact on their buying decisions.
The survey found consumers questioning how chemicals and pesticides are used on the farm, as well as food safety. The results started a nationwide discussion on farming, GMOs, antibiotics, and nutrition, through The Food Dialogues.
So just a year later, are consumers more enlightened. A 2012 survey of more than 1,200 consumers nationwide found that now just 60% of consumers want to know more about how their food is raised. That is a step in the right direction, if the 12% feel more knowledgeable about the farming/food industry. Still, there are 27% of consumers confused about the food they purchase.
The grocery store ads use words like "fresh," "local," and "homegrown" to draw in customers. However, does that really answer the consumer's questions? I don't think so. If agriculture is to tell its story, consumers need the whole picture. Let's be honest. Tell me if you treated it with insecticides, fungicides or herbicides. Tell me if it is organic.
Then let consumers choose based on information, not on family name or photo in a grocery store ad.
To learn more about USFRA's survey results, visit www.fooddialogues.com