Food Demand Survey (FooDS) - June 2014

The June 2014 edition of the Food Demand Survey (FooDs) is now out.

Some highlights:

  • Willingness-to-pay for all tracked foods increased in June relative to May (and also increased relative to June 2013).  The largest dollar increase was for beef steak.
  • Consumers continue to expect higher meat prices, and their expectations of higher prices are much more pronounced today than they were a year ago.
  • There were relatively large jumps in awareness of news stories about Salmonella, E. Coli, and Mad Cow in June.
  • Concern for GMOs and antibiotics experienced the largest drops in June,

Three new ad hoc questions were added to the survey in June relating to preferences for unpasteurized or "raw" milk.  The questions were prompted by some discussions with Wendy Rahn, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

Initially, respondents were told the following:

Milk sold in most grocery stores is pasteurized, meaning it has been briefly heated to a high temperature to kill bacteria before cooling it. Some people want to drink raw or unpasteurized milk, arguing that it tastes better or offers health benefits. Many states do not allow raw milk to be sold in stores because of evidence of higher levels of bacterial contamination and the potential for food borne illness.

Then three questions were then asked (the order was randomized across participants).

One question asked: “Suppose the next time you went to the grocery store to buy milk there were two options: pasteurized and raw, unpasteurized milk available for sale.  Both are the same price. Which would you buy?”  

The vast majority, 79.14% of participants, replied saying they would choose pasteurized milk over unpasteurized milk when both products were the same price at the grocery store. 

Participants were also asked: “Suppose the next time you went to the farmers market, a vendor offered to sell you unpasteurized, raw milk.  You can buy unpasteurized, raw milk at the farmers market or pasteurized milk at the grocery store.  Assuming both are the same price, which would you buy? Approximately 75% of participants replied they would rather purchase pasteurized milk from the grocery than the 12.51% who said they would purchase unpasteurized milk at the farmers market for the same price. Thus, changing the context of the purchase setting from grocery store to farmers market had only a very slight effect on the desirability of unpasteurized milk (increase from 9.5% o 12.5%).

Finally, we asked a public policy question.  Participants were asked: “Regardless of whether you personally are willing to buy raw, unpasteurized milk, do you believe that it should be legal to sell in grocery stores to adult consumers?”  Respondents were nearly evenly divided across response categories.  34.37% believe that the selling of raw, unpasteurized milk to adults in grocery stores should be legal, 33.68% believe it should be illegal, and 31.94% of respondents replied “I don’t know”. 

It is instructive to look at the break-down of personal preferences for purchasing unpasteurized milk vs. beliefs about whether purchases should be legal for others.  Of the 79% of consumers who said they would prefer pasteurized milk over unpasteurized milk in the grocery store, 38.6% thought unpasteurized milk sales should be illegal, 30.5% thought legal, and 30.9% didn’t know.  Thus, even among those who don’t personally prefer to buy unpasteurized milk, there is some fraction of the population (30.5%) who think it should be legal for others.