A poll organized by an Iowa farm group suggests consumers have a positive view of farmers, and think they do a good to great job in caring for their livestock.
The poll is an annual undertaking by the Iowa Food & Family Project. Conducted in November, the survey asked 351 Iowans about their opinions regarding a variety of food and farming topics. A majority of respondents were female, affluent, highly educated and make the majority of their household's food purchases. The survey's margin of error was 5.2%.
According to the survey, 84% of respondents have a positive impression of farming, the highest in the survey's history. Nearly three-quarters of respondents ranked farmers as doing a good to great job in caring for their livestock; and 56% ranked farmers near the top on a five-point rating scale when asked about their commitment to animal care, environmental stewardship and overall impression of the job farmers do.
"These results are a testament to the fact that people know and trust farmers," said Shannon Latham, vice president of Latham Seeds who also blogs frequently about food and farming topics. "Despite the media spotlight on the ag industry this past year, consumers continue to recognize Iowa farmers' dedication to producing safe food and protecting our natural resources."
Beyond the labels
Ninety-six% of respondents consider themselves knowledgeable about how the food they purchase is grown (up from 86% in 2012), while three-quarters of respondents find food labels helpful, up from 46% two years ago.
Among food labels viewed most positively by consumers, "local" ranks highest (65%), followed by "hormone-free" (45%) and "antibiotic-free" (40%). Labels declining in consumer support are "GMO-free" (28%), "organic" (25%) and "natural" (22%).
Support of "antibiotic-free" food labels was of particular interest to livestock organizations like the Iowa Pork Producers Association. According to Joyce Hoppes, IPPA promotions director, the slight downward trend in support is reassuring, but also means an area of opportunity for farmers to shed light on the practices they have on their farms.
"Antibiotics have been in the news this year, which served as an opportunity for farmers to share the safety measures in place surrounding their use," she said. "Farmers use the medicine when necessary and do so under veterinarian supervision, following precautions to ensure there are no traces of antibiotics before an animal enters the food system."