Consumer Perceptions of Sustainable Farming Practices: A Best-Worst Scenario
The ability of a firm to differentiate their product hinges critically on an accurate understanding of the perceptions consumers hold regarding the implications of a credence labeling claim. Building upon existing work evaluating other food attribute labels (e.g., genetically-modified products, region of origin, use of growth hormones) and the impact of consumer inferences (e.g., implicit associations made from explicitly provided information), this work begins to address gaps in the literature regarding food products with sustainably produced claims. This paper uses data collected in the summer and fall of 2010 from a national, web-based survey of 1002 households, to initiate the process of examining consumer inferences and valuations of food products making sustainably produced claims. A Best-Worst scaling framework was implemented to identify what consumers believe sustainably produced labels mean and their preferences for each of the sustainable farming practices considered. The best-worst survey method forces respondents to make trade-offs by simultaneously choosing the most and least preferred attributes. The measured level of concern can then be applied to a standardized ratio scale. The results of this study suggest that consumers perceive farm size and local production as highly important elements of sustainable agriculture. Additionally, consumer preferences over economic attributes such as consumer food prices and financial stability of farmers exhibit high heterogeneity, indicating segmentation in the sample and potential for targeted marketing management.
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