Recently we ran across a white paper by the advertising and marketing agency, Sullivan Higdon & Sink (SHS) titled, “Building Trust in What We Eat: Consumers’ knowledge of and trust in food production and how food marketers can improve it,” available at:

The results of this marketing analysis came from “late 2012, [when] SHS conducted its FoodThink research study monitoring how consumers think about what we eat and America’s relationship with food. The study was executed among 1,457 consumers across the country via an online email survey (confidence interval of +/-2.57% at a confidence level of 95%).

“Respondents had to be at least 18 years of age and have joint or primary responsibility for the grocery and food decisions in their household. They came from a mix of demographic backgrounds and regions across the U.S. FoodThink covered a wide range of topics, such as perceptions of food production, cooking trends and changing thoughts about food. FoodThink was developed to help SHS and its partners uncover insights about food in America in order to help craft effective, unsheeplike marketing communications.”

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As we read the paper, it occurred to us that while the white paper was designed to provide information that SHS believed is of importance to food marketers, it also provides information about trust in the food system that is extremely important to farmers and ranchers.

One of the key findings was that the trust that consumers have in food production is related to the level of excellent/good knowledge consumers feel they have about production practices. The more they feel they know about food production practices the greater the level of trust consumers have in the food production practices.

For people living on a farm or in farming communities that connection is clear because they live with it and see it every day. They see newborn calves in the field and they hear them bawl when they are weaned. The castration of young male animals to reduce aggression and increase the tenderness of the meat is not foreign to them.

Those rural residents who live off the farm/ranch usually know many farmers/ranchers and know that they strive to provide a safe, nutritious product.

The chance for consumers who live in urban areas to gain that kind of information about production practices is more restricted simply because their daily activities don’t bring them into regular contact with farms/ranches and farmers/ranchers. What seems normal to rural folks can be unsettling to urban residents, thus the need for more information about the why and how of production practices.