Consumer Attitudes On Food And Slaughterhouses: A Survey
As animal advocates, we know that there are often disconnects in how the public sees the food system. Buried in people’s day-to-day food practices are sometimes strange ideas about how food gets from farms to tables, and as advocates it’s important that we understand not only what people know, but what they are misinformed about.
Oklahoma State University has published new results from their monthly, ongoing Food Demand Survey (FooDS). The survey measures U.S. consumers’ attitudes towards food safety, quality, and price, particularly focusing on meat consumption, and the results reveal a lot about what people know — and what they may not. FooDS usually gets at least 1,000 participants every month and is available online. There are some results and figures from this round of FooDS that are of interest to animal advocates, in addition to a new component of the study which responds to a survey previously covered here on Faunalytics.
First, it’s worth noting some of the results as they relate to meat consumption in the U.S. In general, the willingness to pay for food (including meat) had decreased over the past year. Beef, including steak and hamburger, has seen a steady decrease in how much consumers are willing to pay for it. The same cannot be said for chicken and pork, which consumers report they are willing to pay more for compared to the previous month.
Another part on FooDS asked consumers about their anticipated spending on meat, revealing that while they planned to buy more chicken, they planned to buy less beef and pork. However, consumers expected the prices of all three meats to be higher, with beef having the most price increases.
FooDS also looked at consumers’ awareness of and concern for food issues – such as foodborne illnesses, GMOs, and animal welfare – and found that consumers were more aware of all issues than the previous month. Further, of all of these issues, E. coli, salmonella, and antibiotics were found to be the top concerns. This followed after a time when E. coli, salmonella, and GMOs were the most prominent food issues in the media.
Overall, the most important factors going into consumers’ food purchases were taste, safety, and price, while the biggest obstacle was finding food that fit within budget. Of all the participants, approximately 5.5% reported being either vegetarian or vegan.
The next part the survey was actually newly added in response to a survey from the Sentience Institute we covered on Faunalytics previously. FooDS researchers were shocked to learn that 42% of Sentience Institute survey participants supported a ban of slaughterhouses. As it turns out, when asked the same question, FooDS participants supported banning slaughterhouses at a rate of 47%. FooDS replicated other Sentience Institute survey questions and found that, overall, the results between the two surveys were similar.
This 47% figure warrants investigation, especially considering that 90% of U.S. citizens consume meat that comes from slaughterhouses. The 47% of FooDS participants that supported banning slaughterhouses were asked a follow-up question clarifying that slaughterhouses were places where farmed animals were processed into meat and that, without them, meat consumption would not be possible. 27% of participants who were asked this question revealed that they actually didn’t know what a slaughterhouse was. Based on this information, FooDS researchers proportionally decreased the 47% figure to 34%.
Still, this is a significantly high figure. It’s possible that some of the survey’s previous questions on meat (which referenced poor animal welfare in the food industry) influenced people into expressing less pro-meat sentiments than they usually would. Even when accounting for possible biases, FooDS alongside the Sentience Institute survey tells an interesting story on consumers’ meat consumption, values, and negative views on slaughterhouses.
This survey reveals some interesting sentiments that could be leveraged into more effective and efficient advocacy. It’d be a good idea for animal advocates to keep this sort of research on our radars, especially as institutions continue to research and get more robust data that help paint a more complete picture of people’s often contradictory opinions and attitudes.