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Identification, Understanding, and Implication of Consumer Food Preferences

Investigators
Tonsor, Glynn
Institutions
Michigan State University
Start date
2008
End date
2012
Objective
The underlying focus of this project is to identify and understand consumer preferences for their food and evaluate associated implications for U.S. food industries, with particular focus on meat production. Michigan, U.S. and international food markets are experiencing unprecedented change. Concerns over animal health, potential bio-terrorism, food safety, international trade, consumer demand for credence attributes, and improving supply chain management are forcing an array of changes in producing, processing, and distributing Americas food. Of core importance is a sound understanding of how these concerns originate and what methods are economically effective at mitigating such concerns. Furthermore, significant improvement in the identification of diversity or heterogeneity among consumers is needed. That is, consumer concerns, beliefs, and resulting behavior with respect to food consumption are known to be heterogeneous. Only recently has research begun to appropriately consider this underlying consumer heterogeneity in analyzing observed consumer behavior and subsequently in developing recommendations for industry and policy makers. Internationally, food industries are responding to the concerns list above in a multitude of ways. Each of these response strategies are chosen as being economically appropriate in addressing perceived needs. However, significant room for improvement in overall understanding of actual economic appropriateness is needed. This pressing need is one core foundation of this project. The over-riding objective of this project is to expand understanding of consumer preferences for their food and evaluate associated economic implications for U.S. food industries, with particular focus on meat production. In thoroughly addressing this main objective, contribution will be made to a set of broad categories of economic research, including agricultural marketing, price analysis, risk management, heterogeneity of consumer preferences, and supply chain management. Some more specific objectives include: Investigate current and future status of consumer preferences, perceptions, and behavior with respect to food products (with a particular emphasis on meat products); Identify sources of influence in shaping current consumer preferences, perceptions, and behavior as well as sources most likely to be economically viable in adjusting future preferences, perceptions, and behavior of food consumers; Examine implications on food industries, both in aggregate and at stages throughout supply chains, of increased understanding of today and tomorrows food consumers.
More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The underlying focus of this project is to identify and understand consumer preferences for their food and evaluate associated implications for U.S. food industries, with particular focus on meat production. Michigan, U.S. and international food markets are experiencing unprecedented change. Concerns over animal health, potential bio-terrorism, food safety, international trade, consumer demand for credence attributes, and improving supply chain management are forcing an array of changes in producing, processing, and distributing Americas food. Of core importance is a sound understanding of how these concerns originate and what methods are economically effective at mitigating such concerns. Furthermore, significant improvement in the identification of diversity or heterogeneity among consumers is needed. That is, consumer concerns, beliefs, and resulting behavior with respect to food consumption are known to be heterogeneous. Only recently has research begun to appropriately consider this underlying consumer heterogeneity in analyzing observed consumer behavior and subsequently in developing recommendations for industry and policy makers. Internationally, food industries are responding to the concerns list above in a multitude of ways. Each of these response strategies are chosen as being economically appropriate in addressing perceived needs. However, significant room for improvement in overall understanding of actual economic appropriateness is needed. This pressing need is one core foundation of this project.

APPROACH: An assortment of methods will be utilized in meeting the objectives of this project. A common approach used will include utilizing intense survey and/or experimental economic methodologies with consumers, producers, and/or industry personnel that obtain individual-level or micro data necessary to address an array of individual research questions underlying the broader themes of this project. For instance, a significant portion of the Principal Investigators (PI) work to date (e.g., Schroeder et al.; Tonsor et al. (2005); Tonsor et al. (2007)) has gathered data from consumers in the form of surveys and choice experiments, analyzed the data with appropriate and modern empirical modeling techniques, and developed resulting implications and possible strategies for associated food industries. This approach will be common in many of the PIs future research projects. A second research approach is to utilize macro or more aggregated data to address research questions of interest. A past example of this is Tonsor and Marshs work that utilized national meat and fish consumption data from U.S. and Japanese consumers to investigated changes and relative differences in consumer demand. Another example is Tonsor and Featherstones analysis regarding sources and implications of increasing specialization in the U.S. hog industry. A third research approach that will be employed is the use of research trips or on-site studies to obtain a better qualitative understanding of underlying forces causing adjustment in the food industry. This approach typically doesnt result in a data set rich enough for empirical analyzes. Conversely, the information obtain is useful in keeping researchers (and associated audiences of research presentations) more current on industry changes and lends itself well to output more in the form of case studies. Past examples utilizing this approach include research trips the PI has taken to Australia and Brazil. Referenced examples of published output stemming from this approach include Tonsor and Schroeder; and Schroeder and Tonsor.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
MICL02159
Accession number
213267
Categories
Food Defense and Integrity
Parasites
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Policy and Planning