Study looks at consumers' willingness to pay more 'local'

Consumers surveyed to determine perceptions of and willingness to pay for local pork chops and chicken breasts.

In the debate on what animal agriculture “should” look like, it is important to understand what consumers perceive attributes and buzzwords, such as “local”, to mean.

Purdue University researchers Elizabeth Byrd, Nicole Widmar, and Michael Wilcox surveyed consumers to determine their perceptions of and willingness to pay for local pork chops and chicken breasts. They reported their results at the 2015 Joint Annual Meeting in Orlando.

When asked how they defined “local” food, 37% of U.S. consumers described it as having been produced within 10 miles of their home, 21% described it to mean within 20 miles of their home and 17% described it as having been produced within the state. Several demographics were found to be correlated with perceptions of local. For instance, they said, being male was found to be correlated with defining local food as having been produced within 20 miles of home, whereas living in the Northeast was positively correlated with defining local food as produced within 10 miles of home.

Households earning less than $40,000 more often defined local food as having been produced within 10 miles of home.

Having visited a beef or dairy farm in the last five years was found to be negatively correlated with defining local food as having been produced within 10 miles of home.

Expressing concern for the welfare of beef or dairy cattle was positively correlated with defining local food as having been produced within 100 miles of home.

As for whether consumers were willing to pay for verified locally grown pork chops and chicken breasts, the preliminary results of a simulated purchasing scenario indicated that consumers were willing to pay up to $2.02/lb. for U.S. Department of Agriculture-verified locally produced chicken breasts but were not willing to pay for verified locally produced pork chops.

While consumers were willing to pay $2.02/lb. for USDA to verify local production in chicken breasts, those same consumers were only willing to pay 37 cents for the poultry industry to verify that chicken breasts were produced locally.
Knowledge about consumer perceptions of local production can help the animal industries make decisions about marketing livestock products, the researchers said.

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