April 15, 2014 - A century ago, over half of Canada's population was farmers. Today, it's down to two per cent - with most people more than three generations removed from their farming ancestors. This shift has meant that most Canadians have lost touch - people often don't understand how their food is grown or how agriculture has changed.
Farm & Food Care Ontario (FFC), as the first coalition of its type in Canada, brings together tens of thousands of livestock, crop and horticulture farmers and related businesses with a mandate to provide credible information on food and farming in Ontario.
In order for FFC to stay in touch with both farmers and consumers, it is important to know what consumers (and farmers) are thinking. As such, the organization works with Ipsos marketing to create benchmarks and ensure that work is being done in the right areas.
"We integrated two studies that bring attitudes together from the consumers point of view and the producers point of view," says Bruce Kelly of FFC. "What we did differently [this time] when we went to the consumers, was instead of just asking them how they feel about animal welfare or about the environment, we put those in context of some of the greater social issues.
"For example, we asked 'How do you feel about the environment compared with paying the mortage? How do you feel about animal welfare in relation to food affordability?' And this has given us a much better context and insight. Food has to be economical for the people who buy it and generate a good return for the people that produce it."
For this study, Ipsos chose to use qualitative study groups rather than internet polling, as it allows them to meet the consumers/producers involved and engage with them at a more basic level. It also allowed Ipsos staff to sit back and watch a discussion unfold without much prompting thus allowing for the collection of key words that seemed to be used often in connotation with agriculture.
The research found that animal welfare and the environment are "higher order" concerns that emerge once food safety, affordability and health needs are met. Subjectively, it appears that farmers are more open to discussions relating to environmental practices, and view their role as stewards as part of the long-term sustainability of the operation.
Additionally, the study found that although consumers say animal welfare is less important than other factors, it represents significant risk due to the strong, negative emotional impact that neglect/abuse can have on consumers – perhaps more so than any other principle.
Other Key Findings:
- Adoption of animal care best practices is high (83 per cent). However, a sginficiant number of Ontario livestock farmers (39 percent) are lower adopters of animal care best practices.
- Adoption of environmental best practices is relatively high (71 per cent). However, a significant number of Ontario farmers (45 per cent) are lower adopters of environmental best practices.
- There is room for improvement in a number of areas, however the biggest area for improvement are Codes of Practice/staff training, biosecurity and resource planning as it relates to environmental best practices.
- Understanding the drivers and barriers to implementing animal care best practices will help to shift lower adopters to become higher adopters. Key drivers and barriers to adoption of animal care best practices revolve around: farmer attitudes; feasibility; awareness and knowledge of best practices; and public image.
More information on the findings can be obtained by contacting Farm & Food Care Ontario at 519-837-1326.