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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perceived food quality and production quality in consumer evaluation of agrifood products Cramer, Katherine Rae


Designing agricultural systems that balance food production with environmental sustainability will be pivotal in supporting a growing population while living within planetary boundaries. Yet the literature on the demand side of food production rests largely on consumer choices driven by food safety, health, and dietary concerns. Very little work pertains to people’s thinking about food production or the supply end of food systems, with the exception of some work on preferences for organics or GM-free products. The current study thus seeks to explore the fuller set of latent factors underlying consumer evaluation of food products. It seeks, in particular, to explore people’s logics as to how they evaluate foods – be they driven by the perceived health attributes of food versus the quality of production of that food. A study was thus conducted to understand people’s evaluation of food items. We surveyed 319 participants using Amazon Mechanical Turk. Each participant was asked to to judge 14 agrifood products on 19 attributes. These attributes spanned concepts on production, environmental impact of production, preferences, and economic value. An exploratory factor analysis revealed two discrete factors: one factor pertained primarily to the quality of the food items themselves (e.g., organics, nutrition, flavor), and the second primarily addressed the quality of food production regarding agricultural inputs and degree of environmental impact (e.g., pesticide use, biodiversity impact, climate change consequence). From the one-way between subject ANOVAs and regression analyses, we found distinct relationships between demographic variables and perceived food and production qualities. These findings suggest that quality of production figures prominently in food perception, which was not previously considered as a part of consumer food choices, at least not for the average (versus ‘ethical’ or ‘green’) consumer. The understanding that quality of agrifood production is a factor among consumers is a valuable finding with implications for marketing, policy, and consumer decision making. The consideration of sustainable production by consumers has the potential to inform and guide the creation of food policies aimed at improved environmental sustainability, and interventions on consumer decision making regarding commensurate goals.

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