Consumer Preferences for Biopreservatives in Beef and Pork Packaging and Testing the Importance of Product Origin
Recent food science research on packaging at the University of Alberta has focused on the use of biological agents (biopreservatives) to extend meat shelf life. This potential technology involves the introduction of microbial organisms into food packages to control or inhibit the growth of disease causing organisms such as Escherichia coli (commonly associated with hamburger disease). Biopreservatives are not yet in commercial use. The study evaluated Western Canadian consumers' preferences regarding the potential use of biopreservatives in fresh red meat packages (beef and pork). The study also assessed the effect of product origin on consumers' purchasing decisions; in particular, whether there is an increasing or decreasing probability of purchase if a fresh meat product is labeled as a product of Alberta, product of Canada, product of United States or if no origin is displayed. The research objectives were achieved through the collection and analysis of data from mailed survey questionnaires that included stated preference and scaling methodologies. The study used multinomial nested logit models to examine the potential effect of the identified product characteristics on the probability of a product being purchased. It is found that in aggregate, the potential use of biopreservatives in fresh meats packages is currently not acceptable to consumers, although many consumers are not opposed to research in this area. The price reductions required for consumer acceptance of a product packaged with a biopreservative are not currently feasible. The study also finds that Western Canadian consumers are generally loyal to meat products from Alberta and Canada as a whole, relative to fresh meat products sourced from the US or products without any indication of origin. For high quality beef products, Alberta is seen as a preferred source compared to other sources in Canada. Simulation results suggest that the price of beef cuts from other Canadian sources need to be reduced before consumers will be indifferent between that product and a beef cut from Alberta. On average, a price reduction of about 15 percent is required for a high quality beef product from other Canadian sources before consumers are indifferent to a Canadian labeled product versus an Alberta product. For a high quality pork cut and for ground beef, the study results indicate that consumers generally are indifferent between products from Alberta and products from other Canadian sources. Branding Alberta pork for export to other provinces does not appear to provide benefits at this time. A comparison of a US product and a product from Alberta suggests that the US product price would have to be reduced by at least 35 percent, whether for a beef cut or a pork cut, before consumers would be indifferent between these products from the two sources. There is a strong bias towards purchase of local product in meat consumption by Western Canadian consumers as long as the domestic product is perceived to be of the same quality as the US fresh meat product.
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