Consumers concerned about hormones, antibiotics, growth promotants and GMOs

Nov 22, 2013

It’s no surprise that consumers are concerned about their food. That issue is—or should be—on the minds of anyone involved in food production.

The findings of a new survey of consumer concerns were presented at the recent National Institute of Animal Agriculture’s “Bridging the Gap” symposium on antibiotic resistance. The survey’s findings suggest average American consumers care quite a bit about where their food comes from and how the animals who produced it were treated.

The survey sought to determine what concerns consumers have, if they differ among grocery types, if/how they have changed in recent years, and how consumers get information about their food. Some highlighted findings regarding consumer concerns are as follows:

• 56 percent said it was important or very important to them to know whether meat animals received hormones or growth promotants; 57 percent said the same regarding dairy products and eggs.

• 54 percent said the same about antibiotics, and whether animals were fed “pesticide-free diets” or diets containing genetically modified organisms.

• 53 percent said the same was important or very important to them to know whether dairy products or eggs came from animals fed “pesticide-free diets” or diets containing genetically modified organisms, while only 52 were concerned about antibiotics for dairy cows and laying hens.

When it came to how their attitudes have changed over the recent years, concerns were up on heavily media-covered topics such as antibiotic use, hormones and growth promotants. The following are the percentages of respondents saying they are more concerned or much more concerned about those topics:

• Safety and impact of antibiotic use in livestock; 64 percent.

• Safety and impact of hormone and growth promotant use in livestock; 63 percent.

• Safety and impact of genetically modified organisms in food; 63 percent.

When asked where they tended to get their information about who produced the food they buy and how, respondents overwhelmingly said product labels with 73 percent.

Additionally, almost 80 percent said they read all or most labels on the food they buy.

About the survey

Survey participants came from every state in the continental nation, but California, Florida and New York contributed the most respondents. More respondents were female (61 percent) and in the traditional parent-ofyoung-children age group (46 percent) than is represented in the population (51 and 27 percent respectively). Respondents were also skewed towards more affluent socio-economic levels than is entirely representative for the population.

Thirty-three percent of the respondents shopped at Walmart or Kroger stores for their groceries. Other high-ranked grocery chains were Albertsons, Safeway, Target, and Hy-Vee, though many others—including a sizable “other” response—were included.

The survey was conducted by Service Management Group on behalf of the Where Food Comes From source verification group. The findings were presented to the NIAA symposium by Joe Cardador, Chief Research Officer for Service Management Group. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor