Consumer Interest in a Natural Designation in Food Choice

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  • In this study, the objective is to identify consumers’ willingness to consume different foods and
    the factors that could drive their food preferences. One hundred non-academic staff and
    students at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada participated in the study. Data were
    collected using focus group discussions, a survey questionnaire and a contingent valuation
    exercise. In the focus groups, participants discussed their preferences for traits in livestock and
    their products, their interest in natural foods and their perceptions regarding naturalness of food
    in relation to the different types of farming and technologies. In the survey questionnaire,
    participants were asked about their food consumption habits, perceptions, attitudes and
    preferences for different foods and technologies, generalized trust in people and trust in groups
    or institutions responsible for food in Canada among other issues. In the contingent valuation
    exercise, participants chose the price they were willing to pay for pork with different information
    about carnosine and omega-3 fatty acids. We find that there is heterogeneity in terms of
    consumers’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviour regarding natural foods. In summary, the cost
    of food, concerns about human and environmental impacts and trustworthiness of information
    on labels are some of the factors that influence participants’ decisions to buy pork labeled as
    coming from disease resilient or feed efficient pigs or pigs that are higher in a human or animal
    health component. Although some people accept genetic modification, other participants were
    concerned about its use in improving disease resilience, feed efficiency and human or animal
    health component in pigs. Although there are some variations in the results, generalized trust in
    people, food technology neophobia and concerns about product leanness, country of origin of
    the product, nutrition content, use of hormones and antibiotics in livestock production and
    environmental foot print of livestock production are associated with attitudes, perceptions and
    behaviour regarding natural foods. Participants are willing to pay more for pork chops with more
    information about carnosine and omega-3 fatty acids as compared to pork chops with less
    information. In comparison to carnosine, participants are willing to pay more for pork chops with
    information about omega-3 fatty acids. Generalized trust in people, trust in advocacy groups,
    natural product interest, frequency of purchasing products with a health claim and knowledge of
    sodium content in pork that have a health claim are associated with willingness to pay for
    enhanced carnosine and omega-3 fatty acids in pork.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International