November 20, 2020


UK consumers willing to pay more for quality food safety



A number of the UK consumers are willing to pay more to avoid food made using production methods that are common in the United States but banned in Europe.


Research from the School of Economics at the University of Kent, the University of Reading and IHS Markit found that UK consumers highly value production that follows food safety standards set by the European Union and the United Kingdom.


According to the study published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics, estimates of consumers willing to pay more for food safety indicated that positive values for food safety are frequently greater than the negative values placed on prohibited food production methods.


Researchers examined the consumer preferences for four food types using production technologies that are currently not authorised in the UK. They are hormone implants in beef, ractopamine in pig fee, chlorine-washed chicken and atrazine pesticide in corn production.


Four food products were used to judge consumer attitudes: 500-grams of chicken breast, 250-grams of beef sirloin steak, one-kilogramme of pork loin joint and two pack of corn on the cob. Attributes used included price, country of origin, organic status, food standards and quality assurance. In total, 1,600 survey responses were collected online between December 2018 and January 2019.


For chicken, the negative willingness-to-pay suggests a price reduction of 26%; for beef, it is 36%; and for pork, it is nearly 60%. These reductions are larger than estimates used in models on the economic benefits from removing existing trade restrictions between the US and EU.


In terms of willingness-to-pay estimates, the RSPCA quality assurance attribute is very highly valued along with the Red Tractor label and EU food safety. A high value is also placed on UK production compared to that from the EU or non-EU.


Researchers produced willingness-to-pay results for the three types of meat using a common per unit measure. Results indicate that, per 100 grams, the largest negative estimate is for hormone implants in beef, followed by hormone in pork and chlorine-washed chicken.


The work found that while people on average do not like chlorine-washed chicken, about 40% are positive about it. The findings came as the UK is in post-Brexit agricultural trade negotiations with countries including the US and Europe.


More than a 1/3 of respondents think Brexit will have a negative effect on food while a quarter said it would have a positive effect.


Professor Iain Fraser, Professor of Agri-Environmental Economics at Kent's School of Economics, said: "Findings are a strong indicator of the expectations placed on food production by UK consumers.


"Methods of food production that fall short in terms of animal welfare draw a negative response from UK consumers whilst, in contrast, the presence of EU food safety standards on packaging results in a positive response from consumers."


 - Food Safety News