The March 2016 edition of the Food Demand Survey is out.
Some results from the regular tracking portion of the survey:
- Willingness to pay for steak and chicken breast was up; willingness to pay for pork chops and ham was down
- Consumers expectations for beef and pork price increases are markedly lower than was the case a year ago
- There was an increase in awareness and concern for animal welfare issues this month, particularly battery cages; E. coli was less visible in the news this month and less of a concern this month compared to last.
A few new ad hoc questions were added this month.
First, all respondents were asked the question, “Compared to five years ago, would you say you are spending more or less time engaged in the following activities during a typical day?” Individuals were presented with seven categories ranging from about 45 minutes less to about 45 minutes more. Overall, respondents reported spending more time shopping for food and eating at home. About the same amount of time reported being spent on cleaning dishes and on cooking. Slightly less time was reported spent watching TV and reading about food. Less time was reportedly spent eating away from home.
Second, one group of respondents was directly asked three questions for which there might be some sensitivity regarding the answer or where there might be social pressure to respond in particular ways. The direct questions were: 1) “Last week did you buy organic food?”, “Last week, did you use a SNAP EBT card?”, and “Last week, did you receive food assistance from a charitable organization like a food pantry, free community meal, or some other free grocery program?”
As the following figure shows, when directly asked, the percent of respondents affirmatively answering these questions was 43%, 13%, and 7% respectively.
The other groups of respondents were asked these questions in an indirect fashion. In particular, we used an approach called a “list experiment”, which has been used in political polling for years. The approach asks people to indicate HOW MANY of a list of items relate to the respondent (not which one). This question is asked to a control group, and then a treatment group receives the exact same list plus one additional sensitive (or controversial) issue. By comparing how many items the respondent indicates in the treatment relative to the control, one can back out the aggregate percent of respondents to whom the additional issue applies. The essence of the approach is that people don’t have to actually tell you whether each issue corresponds to them, and thus it removes the potential for social desirability influencing respondents.
In the control group, respondents were asked, “Below are three activities; How many of the following things did you do last week? Went to a movie, Ate spaghetti, Bought toothpaste.” The treatment groups were the same except we added an additional fourth item, either “bought organic food”, “used a SNAP EBT card” or “Receive food assistance from a charitable organization like a food pantry, free community meal, or some other free grocery program?”
As the figure shows, the degree of affirmation inferred from the indirect question was lower for all three issues, particularly for organic food. The result suggests that respondents might face social pressure to indicate more support for organic food than they actually have, as the percent who said they purchased organic fell from 43% to just 11%. However, the results related to SNAP and charitable assistance are opposite of what was expected in that one might expect respondents to under-report these activities when directly asked if in fact respondents were remiss to reveal such information.