Do Consumers Trust Farmers

09:17PM Mar 08, 2018
In the past 10 years, the Center for Food Integrity has monitored consumer views of the food system. Its latest study reveals many have confidence in farmers, growers and ranchers to ensure safe food but lack trust in food companies.
( Source: Center for Food Integrity; Illustrations: Lindsey Benne )

Farmers rank No. 3 among stakeholders consumers trust the most to ensure their food is safe, according to research by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) published this winter.

While farmers fare better than regulatory agencies (No. 8 on the list of trusted stakeholders) and food companies (No. 11), Charlie Arnot, CEO of CFI, cautions them against seeing the results as permission to disengage with the supply chain.

“The good standing of farmers presents a golden opportunity for farmers to share their stories, invite consumer questions and help build trust.”

CFI’s research shows consumers hold federal regulatory agencies, food companies and farmers most accountable for ensuring safe food, in that order. Many stakeholders in America’s food system believe there is a disconnect between consumers and those responsible for providing safe and healthy food, and CFI finds that disconnect could be dangerous.

The report, titled “A Dangerous Food Disconnect: When Consumers Hold You Responsible But Don’t Trust You,” highlights the need for increased consumer conversations throughout the food system.

“If you’re held responsible and trusted for ensuring safe and healthy food, you’re seen as a credible source,” Arnot says. “However, if you’re held responsible but not trusted, that’s a dangerous disconnect that can’t be ignored.”

During a webinar, Arnot provided details of the research that reveal the groups of people consumers hold responsible for ensuring safe food, as well as the stakeholders those same consumers trust to ensure safe food. Responses collected from more than 1,000 consumers indicate several groups held responsible for healthy and safe food are not trusted to ensure it. Food companies and government agencies, specifically, “have work to do,” Arnot says.  

“The potential fallout is serious, and we’re already witnessing consequences in the food system as public interest in food production and processing grows,” Arnot says. “A lack of trust can result in increased pressure for additional oversight and regulations, rejection of products or information, and consumers seeking alternate, and perhaps unreliable, information sources.”