Consumers Say Safe Meat Worth the Higher Cost

Article ID: 510448

Released: 15-Mar-2005 9:20 AM EST

Source Newsroom: Food Safety Consortium, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

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Newswise — A majority of consumers would be willing to pay a higher price for meat that has been treated " either by irradiation or steam pasteurization " against pathogenic bacteria. These results of a mail survey by Food Safety Consortium researchers at Kansas State University might surprise anyone who thought the public was leery of irradiation.

"A point I want to emphasize is the fact that in this survey, we did not provide any information about irradiation," said Sean Fox, the KSU agricultural economics associate professor who conducted the survey. "We've shown in other surveys that providing information about the technology is absolutely critical to acceptance. In this survey there was no information other than a statement that irradiation is used to kill bacteria."

Fox's survey was mailed to households in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Wyoming. It asked consumers which they would choose if they could buy a standard meat product at $1.69 per pound or a "treated" product at the same price or at prices from 10 to 40 cents per pound higher.

Fox received 715 usable surveys with 79 percent of respondents indicating that at equal prices, they would choose the treated product. Fifty-five percent would choose treated product if it cost more. The survey also found that:

* Some consumers were still more concerned about irradiation than steam pasteurization. The probability of choosing to buy an untreated product was higher if irradiation, rather than steam pasteurization, was the treatment.

* Although steam pasteurization had a lower rejection rate, respondents who chose to buy a treated product tended to place a higher value on irradiation than on steam pasteurization. They displayed a higher willingness to pay for it, Fox said.

* Households with children were more likely to choose the safer products. But the presence of children did not influence the family's willingness to pay a higher price.

* Those who were willing to pay more were on average willing to pay a premium of 22 to 26 cents per pound.

* People who consume more ground beef away from home were more likely to choose to buy the treated product.

* Women had "marginally" higher willingness-to-pay values than men.

Consumers who were aware of the possibility of reducing risk through careful cooking and handling were willing to pay for treated products at a lower rate than those who weren't aware. Does that suggest that people who consider themselves to be careful cooks don't place as much importance on a product's treatment before they buy it?

"That's one way of putting it," Fox said. "They are aware that there is a substitute there, that instead of having to pay for this treatment that somebody else does, they can do the treatment at home."


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