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Perception, reality, farming and food

Written by stevefairchild on .

Today the headline hosepipe delivered a couple stories that remind farmers that however far away from town that they live, there’s still consumer interest right down on the farm. 

Over at the Center for Food Integrity, there was a story about the CFI’s work in understanding consumer perception. It reminded us that indeed, perception is reality when it comes to opinions about food and food production.

 From the CFI piece: 

CFI's 2011 study sought to measure the difference in how consumers perceive different types of farms. The following definitions were provided to survey respondents.  

Family Farmer - A farming operation owned and operated by a family. All decisions on how to operate the farm are made by the family members and carried out by family members or employees.

Commercial Farmer - A farming operation owned by a company and operated by employee farmers. All decisions on how to operate this farm are made by managers of the company and carried out by employees.  

Respondents were asked to rank what they believe the priorities are and what they should be for both family farms and commercial farms. The data shows consumers' priority goals are fairly well-aligned with family farms. Not so much for commercial farms. Consumers believe farm profitability is the second-highest priority for commercial farmers when they believe it should be second to last. There is a lack of alignment on other issues, including farm productivity, environmental sustainability, and the humane treatment of farm animals.   

 

But bigger family-owned farms increasingly are seen as commercial farms, aren’t they?

Yes.

Still, that need not mean such farm need to be perceived as commercial or non-family farms.  According to the CFI:

 

CFI has learned that transparency and effective communication of values can overcome the bias that exists surrounding the size and structure of many of today's farms. The Farmers Feed US website features video interviews of real farmers using modern technology. Surveys of more than 3,000 consumers who have been to the site show 95 percent of them say they consider the farmers to be "knowledgeable, approachable and the kind of person I want producing my food."

 The images on the website show contemporary operations - those that consumers probably consider commercial farms. But transparency coupled with effective communication of shared values can overcome the bias.

 

Get the whole CFI consumer trust survey here.

Meanwhile, AdAge is reporting that  McDonald’s is stepping up its efforts to identify with the growers who produce food for the chain. The story’s deck: Goal Is to 'Put Face on Quality of the Food’

Sounds like CFI and McDonald’s see the same trend. The writer of the AdAge story quotes Neil Golden, McDonald’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer:

"We thought putting a face on the quality of the food story would be a unique way to approach this. We acknowledge that there are questions about where our food comes from. I believe we've got an opportunity to accentuate that part of our story." 

McDonald’s will push the campaign through TV, print and digital media and “additional paid and earned media,” according to AdAge.  Featured farmers will be producers of potatoes, lettuce and beef. 

Recall that just a month ago, McDonald’s egg provider, Sparboe Farms was spotlighted by Mercy for Animals. The animal rights pressure group's broadcast of alleged health and animal welfare failures at Sparboe induced McDonald's to drop the egg producer as a supplier. 

McDonald’s is among the largest buyers of meat, milk and eggs in the country. Checkout @McDListenTour on Twitter to see one way the company approaches social media. 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources for further reading: 

http://www.foodintegrity.org/

http://adage.com/print/231579

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