Food Demand Survey (FooDS) - December 2014

The December 2014 edition of the Food Demand Survey (FooDS) is now out.

Results suggest steady to slightly increasing demand for most meat products this month compared to last, particularly for steak.  Awareness of various controversial issues in the media was similar to last month, but was, across the board, compared to this time last year.  

Three new ad hoc questions were added to the survey this month.  

The first question asked: “Scientists are currently working to develop food products that might become available in the future.  If it were possible, would you be willing to eat or drink the following foods?” Respondents were asked to select “Yes, I would eat/drink this”, “No, I would not eat/drink this”, or “I don’t know” for each item. 

64.81% of respondents stated they would be willing to eat rice with a higher level of vitamin A.  Just under half the respondents stated they would eat an apple that does not turn brown after peeling and they would drink milk in a carton that changes color according to freshness.  Only about 20% of respondents said they’d eat a hamburger from meat grown in a lab, eat a pizza from a 3D food printer, or eat a protein bar made with insect flour.

The results are similar to those from a Pew Foundation poll conducted earlier this year, which posed the following, "Here are some things that people might be able to do in the next 50 years. For each, tell me if this were possible, would YOU PERSONALLY do this... ".  For the item "Eat meat that was grown in a lab" 20% said they would, 78% said they wouldn't, and 2% said "don't know" (in their phone survey, "don't know" wasn't mentioned as an explicit option, it has to be volunteered by the respondent". 

Secondly, participants were asked “Thinking about the future, which of the following food and agriculture challenges are you most concerned about?” Participants were shown nine items (randomly ordered across respondents) and were asked to rank these items from most to least concerned.  The rankings were used in a statistical model to estimate scores for each issue that sum up to 100%.  The issue of largest concern was “Having affordable food for me and my family,” with a concern score of 23.3%.  By contrast, the issue of least concern was “Inequitable distribution of food throughout the world.”  Affordable food was 23.3/8.1= 2.87 times more important than inequitable distribution.  The second and third most concerning issues were “Changing the type and quantity of food eaten to address obesity, diabetes, and heart disease” and “Producing enough food to meet the demands of a growing world population.”

Immediately following the previous question, participants were asked “Several challenges facing the food and agricultural sector were mentioned in the previous question.  Which of the two following option do you believe would be most effective in addressing the challenges you thought were most concerning?”  76.23% of respondents chose the option that stated “adopting a more ‘natural’ agricultural production system – more local, organic unprocessed crops and food” would be most effective in addressing these challenges.  Only 23.77% chose the other option which read: “adopt a more ‘technological’ agricultural system – more innovation, science, and research in crops and food”.  I must say I'm a bit depressed by this last finding.