When you go to the grocery store and pick up a steak or an ear of corn that’s labeled as “locally grown,” did you ever consider what “local” means? A new survey finds consumers and food industry people have much different views on the subject. Rich Pirog is marketing and food systems coordinator for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University in Ames.The survey was conducted with some 16-hundred consumers in Iowa and six other Midwestern states. Pirog says consumers and food businesses were given the choices of local meaning: 25 miles or less, 100 miles or less, grown within your state, and grown within the Midwest. Consumers overwhelmingly chose the shortest distance while food businesses chose the state-grown option. He says there is no rule or criteria on the use of the term “local” and it can mean, apparently, any number of distances. Pirog says consumers were tested on the phrase “grown locally by family farmers” and were very receptive. He says 75-percent of respondants said they’d make produce and meat products bearing that label their first choice.He says the phrase “grown locally by family farms” was received so well, consumers prefered it over more concise labels, including “organic” and “natural.” Pirog says for many reasons, consumers want to know where their food is coming from, especially now that there are more concerns about food security. The survey found about a quarter of consumers said they’d be willing to pay a premium of up to 15-percent more for products labeled as locally-grown. Pirog says the survey did contain a few surprises, namely, finding out the average grocery shopper knows more than the experts usually think they do.Pirog says the study demonstrates that future collaboration between business and agriculture can play a key role in suppporting market research and business development in food value chains.
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