Consumers expect companies to test meat to ensure ‘antibiotic free’

Survey finds consumers losing trust in retailers that practice deceptive meat marketing techniques.

August 22, 2023

2 Min Read
grocery store shopper meat case labels
Getty Images/ iStockphoto

A new consumer survey from Farm Forward and Data for Progress evaluated consumer’s expectations about the labeling and marketing of animal products. The survey results, published in a new report, revealed that affordability and animal welfare are the top two considerations for shoppers when purchasing meat, eggs, and dairy products.

When exposed to information about companies that are utilizing the deceptive practice, known as “humanewashing,” the majority of consumers surveyed say they would be less likely to support a brand if they found out a company was engaged in misleading marketing practices. Additional survey data indicated that conscientious shoppers who pay more for animal products labeled “antibiotic free” and “humane” are the most susceptible to being misled by deceptive marketing and overcharged for products that don’t meet their expectations.

“Shoppers expect that grocery stores verify the claims made by the products they sell,” said Andrew deCoriolis, Farm Forward’s Executive Director. “That is especially true for antibiotic-free meat. Our survey found that most shoppers believe that retailers test products to ensure that antibiotics aren’t present. When they find out that isn’t the case, most consumers say they would lose trust in the grocery store.”

The survey also found that consumers would support stricter standards for foods labeled as antibiotics-free in their grocery store. Over 80% of respondents surveyed believe there should be stricter transparency regulations for both antibiotics and animal product labeling.

“In our research, we have consistently found that consumers are confused and misled by the labels given to animal products in their grocery stores.” said Danielle Deiseroth, executive director of Data for Progress. “Americans list animal welfare as a top consideration for their purchases, and a clear majority want higher testing standards for food labeling to ensure companies’ claims actually align with their practices.”

Key findings of the report included:  

  • Over two-thirds (69%) of American adults are very or somewhat concerned about where their food comes from.

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) agree that grocery stores selling animal products with labels like “raised without antibiotics” and “Animal Welfare Certified” should be subject to regular testing and reporting to ensure products meet the standards they claim they do.

  • Nearly three-fourths (71%) would lose trust in their grocery store if they discovered that products marketed as raised without antibiotics contained antibiotic residues.

  • An overwhelming majority (87%) think there should be stricter transparency regulations for labeled products.

According to Farm Forward, the results of the survey indicate that consumers believe grocery stores and the government should both do more to ensure labels like “antibiotic free” are accurate.

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