(Beyond Pesticides, July 27, 2011) A recent poll conducted by Thomson Reuters and National Public Radio (NPR) shows that a majority of Americans prefer to buy organic food when given the chance. In the survey, 58% of respondents say they choose organic over conventionally produced foods when they have the opportunity, a number that spikes higher among both young and highly educated respondents. 63% of respondents under the age of 35 prefer organic foods, as do 64% of those with a bachelor’s degree or more. Desire for organic food was relatively even across income brackets, as 59% of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year preferred organic, as did 56% of those making less than $25,000 a year. Preference for organic food was at 61% for those whose annual income was $25,000-$50,000 as well as more than $100,000.
The survey asked five questions of respondents: (1) Given a choice, would you prefer to eat organic or non-organic foods? (2) What are your reasons for preferring organic food? (3) What are your reasons for preferring non-organic food? (4) Given a choice, where would you most prefer to get your produce? (5) In a restaurant, would your ordering decision be influenced by the availability of organic options?
Among reasons for buying organic food, avoidance of toxins and support for local farmers roughly tied for most common reasons at 34% and 36% respectively. Second was concern for the environment at 17%, with better taste coming in last at 13%. Interestingly, the percentage of people who identified concern for the environment as their reason for buying organic food increased with age of the respondent. For those under 35 years old, only 12% identified this as a reason, while 23% of those over 65 did so. The trend was reversed, though not as dramatically, for concern about toxic exposure through food. 36% of those under 35 identified this as a reason for buying organic, while only 31% of those over the age of 65 did so. Support for local farmers was highest among those under 35 at 40%.
The poll results also demonstrate the potential for growth in the organic food sector if organically produced foods were to become more easily accessible to consumers. According to the poll, the most common roadblock for consumers who wish to buy organic food but are unable to is cost, with 54% stating that their preference for non-organic food stems from the fact that organic food is too expensive. The second most common reason for not buying organic food was simply that it is not always easy to find. 21% of respondents stated that they do not buy organic food because non-organic food is more readily available. With farmers markets being the most preferable venue for respondents to buy their produce when given the choice â€“ 43%, compared with supermarkets (32%), co-ops (5%), or home gardens (20%) â€“ these numbers suggest that there is ample consumer demand to support increasing the number of farmers markets, achieving greater access to organic food for consumers.
“It stands to reason that, by expanding the network of farmer’s markets, we could see a further groundswell around the support for organic foods,” said Raymond Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer at the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters. He also pointed out that “[t]here appears to be a generational difference in preference for organic foods. The strong, positive sentiment among young people indicates they are more concerned with exposure to toxins and place a higher premium on supporting local markets.â€ť
“This month’s poll gives us some insight into what is going through consumers’ minds when they’re making the choice of what they will feed themselves and their families,” said Scott Hensley, NPR health correspondent and blogger. “We find it especially intriguing that a very small percentage of respondents are choosing organic foods based on taste. This makes organic vs. conventional a really unique case where food decisions are being made consciously by consumers.”
To learn more about the benefits of organic food and farming, visit our organic web page.
Source: Thomson Reuters