FFAR Awards Grant to Food Marketing Institute Foundation and Animal Agriculture Alliance to Study Consumer Understanding and Willingness-to-Pay for Production Practices in Animal Agriculture
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established in the 2014 Farm Bill with bipartisan congressional support, has awarded a $50,000 grant to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation and Animal Agriculture Alliance to study consumer understanding and willingness-to-pay for alternative production practices in animal agriculture. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from the FMI Foundation and the Alliance for a total investment of $100,000. Farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses are seeking to respond to consumer demand for cage-free egg production and slow-growth broiler chickens, and there is a need by food retailers to better understand consumer knowledge, beliefs and willingness-to-pay for these attributes. Agricultural producers, businesses and retailers turned to cage-free eggs and slow-growth broilers for this consumer research because fresh eggs and chicken are some of the best sources of protein in the American diet. In addition, increasing transition to cage-free production practices by farmers and commitments by businesses to adopt alternative production practices for broilers have begun to impact the supply-demand paradigm. Gaining knowledge of consumers’ preferences and beliefs will help to guide choices in research, production, and retail sales. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to partner with food retailers, farmers and agricultural business to better understand how animal production practices influence consumer decision-making in the retail setting,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., FFAR executive director. While several studies have estimated consumer willingness-to-pay for fresh agricultural products, few have linked these estimates to consumer knowledge, beliefs and to information treatments that will help determine future demand for attributes. This research employs state-of-the-art choice modeling techniques, including choice experiments and latent class modeling, to estimate diversity in consumer preferences and willingness-to-pay for cage-free eggs and slow-growth broilers now and in the future. Led by Jayson Lusk, Ph.D., who is a food and agricultural economist at Purdue University, the research team will custom build consumer surveys distributed to at least 3,000 respondents that mimic decision-making in the retail environment. Respondents will make a series of choices between products that vary in price and other attributes, such as production practices (cage-free, pasture-raised, slow growth, conventionally raised), labeling claims, packaging, product color and appearance. “Shoppers suffering from data fatigue are turning to their food retailers for trusted and curated information about their food purchases,” said Susan Borra, RD, executive director of the FMI Foundation. “The FMI Foundation believes that funding research on emerging health and social concerns affecting consumer confidence in the food and consumer goods industry will impact the public conversation and build consumer trust.” “Consumers are key stakeholders in the food system,” said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO. “It is critical to develop a firmer understanding of shoppers’ values and priorities when making choices about the food they purchase and feed their families. Our mission at the Alliance is to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork, and this research will help us do just that more effectively.” This grant is funded through the FFAR Protein Challenge, a suite of research programs that support producers’ efforts to improve plant and animal production efficiency to meet the growing global protein demand while conserving natural resources. With various parts of the food industry working to meet cage-free pledges, and some beginning to commit to alternative production practices for broiler hens, using a consumer research base approach to help inform plans is increasingly relevant to the entire food sector.
By Tim Kurt, FFAR Scientific Program Director Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Maine and take part in a tour of aquaculture research, production and processing facilities. The tour was hosted by Sebastian Belle of the Maine Aquaculture Association and included several members of the Gulf Seafood Institute, including commercial fishermen from Louisiana and Alabama. Researchers from Southern Mississippi State University, as well as representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aquaculture Association (NAA) also attended. The tour group spent time at the Cooke Aquaculture Atlantic salmon hatchery facilities, observed net pens by boat, and visited a salmon processing plant. The tour also visited the USDA-ARS National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center and the Hollander & de Koning mussel processing plant. Offshore pens for Atlantic salmon at Cooke Aquaculture. Aquaculture, or water-based farming, is conducted in fresh or salt water using both offshore and land-based systems. Fish have an incredible almost 1:1 feed conversion rate, meaning that they convert virtually all of their feed to protein. This results in a very low footprint from feed production for aquaculture. In the U.S., well-managed aquaculture farms really use little land or freshwater resources, produce little waste, and use few (if any) antibiotics or other drugs. In the coastal environment, the Maine experience shows that aquaculture can complement, and even enhance, wild fisheries. Local fishermen in Maine have found that the artificial reef-like structures of the aqua-farms and the congregations of fish actually result in flourishing sea life around the farms. Recent advances, including feeds that use plant-materials supplemented with taurine or byproducts from fish processing, enable the production of fish with little impact on wild fisheries. In addition to producing locally-sourced, sustainable seafood, aquaculture may allow future generations to continue earning a living on the water. Commercial fisheries and aquaculture production can complement to each other and Maine’s experience shows that both industries contribute to sustainable fish, shellfish and seaweed production. Getting up close and personal with salmon at the USDA ARS National Coldwater Marine Aquaculture Center. About the Author Tim Kurt, DVM, Ph.D., is passionate about the fundamental role of science, and especially veterinary science, in enhancing sustainable agriculture, food security and improving people’s lives. At FFAR, Dr. Kurt is developing animal research programs to support innovative biological and management approaches to preventing and controlling infectious diseases and reducing reliance on medically-important antibiotics, reducing environmental impacts of livestock production, farm-animal welfare research and aquaculture research. He also oversees the Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program, which supports efforts to prevent and/or mitigate agricultural pest or pathogen outbreaks.