FooDS May 2014

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

Because we've been conducting the survey for over a year now, we are not only able to report changes relative to the previous month but also changes relative to the same month last year.

This month's survey reveals willingness-to-pay (WTP) for meat products is down in May relative to April and relative to May 2013. Consumers expect higher meat prices this month and report spending more on food at home and away from home.    

Some of the biggest changes witnessed this month relate to a spike in how much consumers said they heard, and how concerned they said they were, about greenhouse gasses.  The result is likely a consequence of the widely publicized release of a report on climate change by the White House on May 6 (the National Climate Assessment update).  

We also added some ad hoc questions to gauge public support/opposition for the controversial laws that seek to prohibit release of undercover reporting at animal production facilitates (these are derogatorily known as "ag gag" laws).

We randomly allocated participants to one of two groups.  The first group was told and asked the following:

Several state legislatures have considered bills to outlaw certain activities on livestock facilities.  The laws would prohibit a person entering an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.  the laws would also charge a person with a crime if he or she willfully obtains access to an agricultural production facility by false pretenses or knowingly makes a false statement or misrepresentation as part of an application for employment at an agricultural production facility with the intent to commit an act no authorized by the owner. Would you support or oppose such legislation?  

The second group was asked the same question except the first sentence was altered to provide some context for the laws and give some insight as to why the laws are coming about.  The first sentence for this group read:

In response to the release of undercover videos revealing cases of animal cruelty by animal activist organizations, agricultural groups have lobbied legislatures in several states to introduce bills to outlaw certain activities on livestock facilities.  

Here's what we found:

Regardless of which group a participant was randomly assigned, more people supported than opposed such laws.  Unexpectedly, adding contextual information increased the level of support for the laws.  Interestingly, providing contextual information also increased opposition as well.  This means that it moved people out of the "undecided" category.  Given that there are about 500 people in each group, the margin of error (or sampling error) on these questions is plus or minus 4.4%.  With the 1st group, we can be pretty confident there are more supporters than opponents, but with contextual information, there is a statistical dead heat.