Survey reveals consumer thoughts about U.S. food system

Sustainability is a hot topic in agriculture lately, as consumers are bombarded with messaging about the price, safety and availability of food.

As food and agriculture coincide, sustainable agriculture is a movement interlocking the success of three concepts: farm profits, farm communities and eco-friendly farming practices.

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) recently released results from its 2009 Consumer Trust Survey about sustainability. CFI is a nonprofit organization that promotes dialogue, advocates best practices, addresses consumer issues and serves as a resource for accurate, balanced information about the U.S. food system.

CFI member organizations represent each segment of the food chain, including farmers, ranchers, processors, government and companies that deliver food products under local, regional and global brand names.

The purpose of the survey was to better understand consumers’ decision-making processes in regard to food purchasing, since most consumers are largely uninformed, and to help build confidence in the American food system.

Survey respondents were asked a series of questions regarding their beliefs about the following stakeholders of the food system: farmers, restaurants, grocery stores and food companies.

Survey Highlights
  • Consumers hold farmers most accountable for sustainability in the food system.
  • Consumers hold restaurants least accountable for sustainability in the food system.
  • Men are more trusting of the information that was presented than women.
  • Consumers are willing to be educated about the food system.
  • Consumers trust food more if it is made in the U.S.
  • Food prices are not as great a concern for consumers as they were one year ago.
  • Consumers do not consider organic food as healthy as they did two years ago.
  • Consumers perceive farmers as most competent among industry groups and therefore, place the most trust and responsibility in them.

A Webinar presented by CFI about the survey, including survey questions, can be accessed at:

As the results indicate, consumers’ trust in and expectations of farmers are great responsibilities to bear. Farmers are charged with creating and supplying an affordable, dependable food supply that meets sustainability standards.

Interestingly, respondents also believe that having shared values and ethics among industry members is more important than the groups truly demonstrating sustainability competence.

What conclusions do you draw from the survey results? What kinds of questions should the next survey include? How can farmers and other members of the food industry demonstrate their commitment to sustainability? Do farmers deserve more recognition for their role in the industry?

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