Meat & Livestock News

British Agriculture: Consumer Trust and Environmental Perceptions

Harvesting rice in the field at sunset.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has been tracking consumer trust in British farming and agriculture since 2019. Their latest AHDB/Blue Marble study reveals that over the past five years, more than 60% of consumers have consistently felt positive towards British agriculture.

Notably, there was a surge in positivity in 2020, attributed to a heightened consumer focus on the food supply chain due to COVID-19.

Farmers continue to be the most trusted sector within the food supply chain. According to the study, 71% of consumers find farmers ‘trustworthy’, a higher score compared to supermarkets and food processors, which scored 50% and 41%, respectively. Consumers also rank farmers highly for their expertise, animal welfare, and environmental care.

However, the study also indicates that consumers are increasingly concerned about environmental issues. Despite the cost of living crisis forcing many to change their lifestyle habits, environmental factors such as price and quality are still considered important.

The AHDB’s trust study delved deeper into consumer views on environmental factors, revealing heightened concern about issues like water pollution, plastic in food packaging, and rainforest and habitat destruction.

Key consumer concerns about the impact of agriculture on the environment include methane emissions from livestock, water usage in British crop production, and food miles.

These concerns vary among different demographics, with meat producers most worried about methane emissions, insecticide effects, and water use in crop production, while Generation Z is more concerned about plastic use on farms, loss of native UK species, and water usage in imported crops.

The study also highlights mixed consumer understanding of environmental ‘buzzwords’. Terms like ‘organic food’ and ‘plant-based food’ are generally well-understood, but there is less clarity on concepts such as ‘net zero’, ‘carbon offsetting’, and ‘regenerative agriculture’.

Despite the current economic challenges, the proportion of people engaging in environmentally friendly behaviours, such as buying loose food without packaging and choosing sustainably produced food, has risen since 2022. The AHDB/YouGov’s Consumer tracker shows an increasing number of people considering product packaging and food waste levels.

The current economic situation has led many consumers to reassess their purchasing behaviour, prioritising cost reduction.

However, the environment remains a significant consideration at the point of purchase, with factors like price, taste, and value/quality also playing a crucial role. In the long term, the environment presents key opportunities for the industry.