Remember the long running campaign by the Pork Board?
The campaign pitching pork as the other white meat made sense at a time when there was rising concern about fat content and red meat consumption and increased competition from chicken. But, times have changed.
One of the changes has come about from scientific developments. As it turns out, pork color is a good indicator of eating quality, and in blind taste tests, consumers prefer redder pork to whiter pork. Do consumers know this? Could a quality labeling system help coordinate the pork supply chain and better align production with consumers' eating expectations?
These were the questions that led to this paper just released by the journal Food Policy that I co-authored with Glynn Tonsor, Ted Schroeder, and Dermot Hayes with funding by the National Pork Board (a longer report of the results is here).
We surveyed about 2,000 consumers for the analysis reported in the Food Policy paper. We were mainly interested in how consumers' choices between pork (and other meat) products varied with the color of the pork and whether and which kinds of labels were present. Consumers were randomly assigned to a control (with no labels) or one of several treatment groups that utilized different labeling systems. Below shows a particular choice question used in the various treatments.
We use the choices consumers made in these treatments to back out consumers' willingness-to-pay, but even more importantly, the probability a consumer buys any type of pork and the expected revenue from pork. For the economists out there, I'll note that we also have some methodological innovation. Rather than just looking at the probability of buying a type of pork at a given set of prices, we also invert the equations to look at the equilibrium price of pork at a given quantity of different types of pork (this is important because in the short run, pork producers can't easily produce a larger amount of higher quality pork).
So, what did we find?
We go on to show there is significant heterogeneity in consumer preferences. We find that 28% to 40%, depending on the labeling condition, of consumers prefer white pork to red pork.
From the conclusions:
As this piece in the Federal Register indicates, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is seeking public comment on the usefulness of such a labeling system. Maybe one day in the future you will see new pork quality grade labels in the grocery store.