Consumers go out of their way to spend more on meat

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania, November 29, 2004: Sure, it costs more and it may be more difficult to obtain, but consumers want locally raised meat. The results of a summer survey, Consumer Motivations for Purchasing Local Meats, indicate that over 60% of Pennsylvania consumers who regularly purchase meat directly from a local farmer make an extra effort to do so. The survey, which was commissioned by Ben Franklin Technology Center of Pennsylvania and conducted by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, revealed that over 85% of these consumers pay more for local meat.

So what motivates consumers to drive further and spend more for local meat? Health...that is, concern for personal health.

“An overwhelming majority of people cited health as their primary reason for buying local meat,” said Amy Trauger, a doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University and the principle investigator for the study. “It’s surprising because we’re told that Americans just want cheap food that tastes good.”

But these consumers aren’t your average Americans. Over 60% of the respondents reported household incomes of over $50,000, which is higher than Pennsylvania’s average of $40,106 (US Census Bureau 2000). These consumers are also college educated and over two times more likely to have children in their household.

“In many cases, families came to the market together as a social event. It’s more fun to go to a farmers’ market to buy food than at a grocery store,” said Trauger.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said that one of the most important reasons for purchasing directly from a local farmer was to support the local economy. “These results confirm that consumers are beginning to understand the connection between how they spend their food dollars and the viability of their local farm communities,” said Heather House, Director of Educational Outreach at PASA.

House believes people’s concern for health extends to the entire food system, ranging from the health of local economies to the environment in which the animals are raised. For example, over 60% cited ‘factory farming practices’ as a reason NOT to purchase regular meat from a grocery store. A Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) or ‘factory farm’ is defined by federal and state statute as a facility that contains 1,000 animal units. Many consumers believe that, in addition to the possibility of having a negative impact on the environment, these farms may not be producing a healthy product.

“We’re witnessing growth in demand for locally raised meats, and other products for that matter, that directly corresponds to consumers becoming more educated about the nature of food production. It’s not just what you eat anymore, it’s about how it was produced and by whom,” said House.

Trauger will present the results of this study at the annual PASA conference in February. Brian Snyder, Executive Director of PASA, says hopefully, “This year, the PASA conference will assert the attitude of ‘reclaiming health’, as opposed to ‘preventing disease,’ as a process that begins every morning on farms all across the country."

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