exceeded 100 percent and the price premium for a half- gallon of milk ranged from 60 percent to 109 percent. It’s clear that many con- sumers are interested in organic food, but how much they’re willing to pay for it and how they define “organ- ic” is much less clear.
movement The picture is even murk- ier for local foods – that is, foods produced and sold in the same general region. One problem is how to de- fine “local” because defini- tions vary. A lot. As a May 2010 report from the ERS puts it, “There is no gener- ally accepted definition of ‘local’ food.”
One fact is unambiguous:
There are a lot more farmers markets than there used to be. In 1994, when the USDA began publishing the Na- tional Directory of Farmers Markets, there were 1,755 listed. As of last year, there were 6,132 farmers markets, a 16 percent increase from 2009.
What’s also unambigu-
not be direct-to-consumer,” ERS said. “Local food sales through all marketing chan- nels in the United States were $5 billion in 2007, compared to $1.2 billion in direct-to-consumer sales.”
Food safety This is a category that
covers a lot of ground – ev- erything from hormones to pesticide residues to geneti- cally modified crops to E. coli to sweeteners. The ques- tion is, are consumers genu- inely worried about these things? The short answer? Yes. Concerns might vary de- pending on the news during any given week – a major recall, a well-publicized study or a report of some- thing awful found in import- ed food – but the concern is real, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. According to a May 2010
article in Adweek by Mark Dolliver, 65 percent of re- spondents to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte LLC said they are more concerned than they were five years ago about the food they eat. Among the specific con-
• Country-of-origin label- ing for fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables was “extremely” or “very” im- portant to 51 percent and “somewhat” important to another 35 percent.
• More than one-third of respondents said they’re “extremely concerned” (13 percent) or “very concerned” (21 percent) about eating genetically modified foods.
animal welfare Fact: Most Americans
like to eat meat, and they eat a lot of it. Americans consumed on average 62.2 pounds of beef, 47.3 pounds of pork and 59.9 pounds of chicken in 2007, according to the USDA. Another fact: Most Ameri-
cans are also concerned about how the animals that provide that meat are treated. There is a lot of data on this subject, and it comes from sources both respected and suspect, so for purposes of this article, The Hoosier Farmer decided to focus on a 2005 survey from nearby Ohio State University. Ac-
High prices reinvigorate
food and fuel debate —By minDy reeF PuBlic relAtions teAm
The debate over using corn for food or fuel is back. But unlike 2008, when many commentators focused al- most exclusively on ethanol’s role in food prices, so far critics have acknowledged that ethanol is not the only factor in the rising price of food. Several other factors are sharing responsibility for price increases and may not be resolved in the near fu- ture. Weather has been a large factor: Floods in Australia, drought and fires in Russia and crop failure in China are also contributing to the supply-side problem. Recent protests and rioting in Egypt and Libya add to the instability in the part of the world where most of the United States’ oil comes from, which drives up the price of food production at nearly every stage in the process from planting to transport.
On the demand side, emerging markets such as China and India are improving their living conditions and eat- ing better, including more meat and dairy products. The increased demand in these products leads to an increased demand for corn to feed the animals, which drives up the price of corn for livestock farmers. Speculation in the commodity markets is also believed to be partly to blame for artificially driving up prices. Biofuels do play a role in the food/fuel equation. Ac- cording to a Congressional Budget Office report from 2008, ethanol contributed 0.2 to 0.4 percent of the in- crease in food costs at that time. Food costs in some countries have been rising due to these problems, but here in the U.S., much of our food has some sort of processing that ties the cost to factors beyond the farm gate and energy needs, so our increases as a percent of income will likely be lower. IFB will continue to follow the food and fuel debate and educate people about the many factors contributing to the rising cost of food.
ous is that farmers markets represent a tiny portion of the overall food sales – only about 0.4 percent in 2007, up from 0.3 percent in 1997 – but that portion is inching up. According to the ERS, overall sales increased by $399 million from 2002 to 2007, and by $660 million from 1997 to 2007. As of 2007, 136,800 farms, or 6 percent of all farms in the U.S., sold $1.2 billion worth of farm products directly to consumers. It’s also undeniable that
major chains – including Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, Safe- way and Wal-Mart – have entered the local foods mar- ket. “Most local food may
cerns listed in Adweek (a publication written for the advertising industry): • “Overprocessed food” was among the top food concerns of 31 percent of respondents.
• “Possible use of chemi- cal ingredients that are detrimental to long-term health” – 29 percent.
• The “use of high-fructose corn syrup” – 27 percent.
• 53 percent said they “fre- quently or always read the list of ingredients” on an unfamiliar packaged item and 54 percent fre- quently/always check the box for factors such as calories (71 percent), total fat (63 percent), sugars (50 percent) and sodium
cording to OSU, nearly all Ohioans say they care about the welfare of farm animals. Ninety-two percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that it is important that farm animals are well-cared for, and 85 percent said the quality of life for farm ani- mals is important even when they are used for meat. In addition, 81 percent agreed that the “well-being of farm animals is just as im- portant as the well-being of pets,” and 75 percent agreed that “farm animals should be protected from feeling physi- cal pain.”
“Nearly everyone says animals should be treated well,” Jeff Sharp, a rural sociologist with the Ohio
Agricultural Research and Development Center and OSU Extension, said in a news release. “But there’s a question of how you define that. The bottom line is that we may have a ways to go before we’ve figured out how to optimally balance consumer concerns and production demands to meet everyone’s needs.” Another finding from the
OSU survey is that more than half of respondents said they would pay more for meat, poultry or dairy if it was labeled as coming from hu- manely treated animals. Of those, 43 percent said they would pay 10 percent more,
and 12 percent said they would pay 25 percent more. “It is important to note that
two-thirds of the respondents (67 percent) were either un- decided or indicated they were not interested in learn- ing more about farm ani- mals,” the OSU release said. “It may be that people
don’t want to know the spe- cifics of where their meat comes from,” said Holli Kendall, a rural sociology doctoral student who helped analyze survey results. “Per- haps people prefer a veil of ignorance regarding how their food is produced,” Sharp added.
March 7, 2011
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