Consumers Fear That Commercial Farms Put Profit Ahead of Principle

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When more than 2,000 consumers ranked eight priorities for the meat industry, their responses were far different than those of industry workers

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Editor's Note: A misreading of the report led us to believe that the Center for Food Integrity polled consumers and those working in the meat industry separately. What the survey shows, generally, is that 2,000 polled consumers believe commercial farmers are more concerned with profitability than consumers believe farmers should be. We regret the error.

According to MeatingPlace, the Center for Food Integrity asked more than 2,000 respondents to rank a field of eight possible priorities for the meat industry. The rankings of meat industry respondents were quite different from those of consumers.

Meat industry respondents ranked profitability as number two and humane treatment of farm animals as number eight.

In contrast, consumer respondents ranked profitability way down the list as number seven but humane treatment of farm animals as number four.

These disconnects, say industry observers, are serious and "feed an overall distrust of commercial ag operations." The survey report explains:

There is an inverse relationship between the perception of shared values and priorities for commercial farms. Consumers fear that commercial farms will put profit ahead of principle and therefore cut corners when it comes to other priority issues. As farms continue to change in size and scale we have to overcome that bias by effectively demonstrating our commitment to the values and priorities of consumers.

Maybe the message is getting out there?

Image: margouillat photo/Shutterstock.

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This post also appears on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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