Consumers hesitant to trust meat info from media, restaurants

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The conventional livestock industry has faced some negative publicity in recent years, but survey results show those critics presenting the message lack credibility in the eyes of consumers.

Food critics, members of the media and advertising campaigns from Chipotle and Panera have criticized the livestock industry for production practices and products including lean finely textured ground beef. Analysts lacking industry knowledge have targeted animal welfare practices, antibiotic use and “factory” farming.

The January Food Demand Survey from the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics shows consumers targeted by those messages are less likely to see the information as trustworthy compared to information from the U.S. government and livestock associations.

Finding from the survey show how over 1,000 consumers responded to the question “How trustworthy is information about meat and livestock from the following sources?” In a chart of the 15 sources listed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were viewed as the most trustworthy, while franchise restaurants McDonald’s and Chipotle were the least trustworthy.

The chart below lists the 15 sources rated from most to least trustworthy. The report created the scale by calculating the proportion of times a meat and livestock information source as ranked most trustworthy minus the proportion of times it was ranked least trustworthy.

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According to the report, Chipotle was placed in the least trustworthy category 69% more often than in the most trustworthy category. The American Farm Bureau was ahead of the Humane Society of the United States and both were viewed as more credible sources than a professor from Harvard University or Texas A&M University. The New York Times and ABC Nightly News were only above the two restaurant companies and Tyson Foods on the scale.

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