Food companies want more information from animal agriculture is one of the take-home messages from a recent survey of grocery and restaurant executives. Conducted by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI), the survey signals an opportunity for those in animal agriculture to provide retailers with better support and alignment to address consumer demands and challenging issues.

Among the issues that are gaining importance in consumers’ minds are food safety, specifically hormones and antibiotics; animal well-being; and how animals are raised.

The CFI survey polled Quick Serve Restaurants (QSR) and procurement managers from 10 leading food industry retailers, including Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, Marsh Supermarkets, Bob Evans, Giant Eagle, Wakefern Food Corp., Sodexo, Brinker International and Harris Teeter.

The survey was conducted by phone and online, and used quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate responses. The objective was to provide feedback and stimulate discussion in an effort to improve supply chain alignment on critical issues facing animal agriculture.

The questions focused on meat, milk and eggs products. Each respondent was asked for his/her thoughts regarding practices “on farm” and “during processing” that result in safe food; humane treatment of animals; sustainable protection of natural resources and; the nutrition of products. The survey also inquired about the safety of food derived from animals treated with antibiotics; animals treated with hormones; and foods associated with biotechnology.

Responses to each of those questions showed a significant need for additional, fact-based information about these issues to support retailers and restaurateurs, CFI points out.

As one survey respondent said: “I see it in our stores. People are examining labels. Consumers want to know what’s in their food.” This individual noted that those associated with animal agriculture can provide that support. “We need to help them (consumers) with positive information on why they can trust what they’re buying from us,” the food supplier said.

At this spring’s North American Strategy Conference on Animal Agriculture, CFI reported that survey participants noted that they are feeling increased pressure from activist groups. What’s more, that maintaining their customers’ confidence, protecting their brand and company image is priority 1.

“This research illustrates a significant opportunity for those in animal agriculture to provide greater coordination and communication to help improve supply chain alignment and serve as a resource for retailers on challenging issues,” says Charlie Arnot, CFI’s chief executive officer. “Retailers can then serve as a direct point-of-contact, providing consumers the information they need to make informed choices.”