Exploring the Meat Aisles: How People Make Food Choices

Sometimes the grocery store is a scary place. If you're hungry, you spend too much money. If you have coupons, you have an obligation to use them. But even worse, there are a lot of confusing labels. Today, I set out on an adventure to figure out why people choose the items they throw into their shopping carts and see if anyone had opinions on the animal agriculture industry.

I started my adventure in my local Meijer, a store that is known for mPerks, good sales and an awesome produce section. But instead of buying apples, I headed to the meat section to see what the prices were like. There were a lot of great markdowns and yellow tags. And I hardly noticed any distracting labels that shouted "I don't have any added hormones!" or "My farmer didn't use any antibiotics!" I only saw a few marketing attempts, such as "100% natural" and the occasional butterfly logo fluttering around. For those who didn't get the reference, there were a few packages indicating there were no GMOs in the product.

Recent increases in labeling have influenced the way customers choose their items. Many worry about what ingredients are used in their food, which is completely understandable. We want food to be safe, delicious and affordable. So, when a mom is presented with two packages, she has a lot of considerations to make. Let's say one product informs her that there are no added hormones, no antibiotics and no GMOs. She may not know what it means to not have GMOs, but the other package doesn't include that label. Therefore, the mom probably worries why they don't both display the label and she chooses the one that doesn't include genetically modified organisms. To her, the few extra dollars are worth the safety she feels buying that product for her children.

Ok, so that mom was a hypothetical example, but it's a very common and realistic occurrence happening in grocery stores across the U.S. and beyond. That being said, how did the individuals I spoke to today feel about animal agriculture? I mean, those labels I've been rambling about are an indication of animal production practices, after all. Essentially, it was a 50/50 response. Animal welfare is one of the top concerns, but being in an Indiana town meant there were many other factors at play.

So if it is more than labels and how farmers treat their animals, what is the true determining factor behind someone's food purchase? Well, there is one label that the majority of the population truly focuses on -- the price tag. Every person I spoke with today said the cost was a leading factor in their final purchasing decision.

However, food choice is a complex thing. Our culture, values, religion, social class, taste preferences and emphasis on health all play a role in the way we shop. When you are trying to communicate with others about the animal agriculture industry, it is extremely important to understand these influences. It is essential to be aware of the individual's belief system and situation before you can really connect with them.

My biggest takeaway from today is that many people still trust farmers, everyone wants animals to be treated well and most people just want the best bang for their buck. I know I fit into the exact same category because even though I am working toward a career supporting the livestock industry, at the end of the day, I'm a consumer who wants to choose healthy, affordable and safe food items. As I continue moving forward with efforts to share the true and positive story of agriculture, I hope to really understand where the other person is coming from so I can have a genuine conversation. Because to me, it's about engaging, not just educating.

Do you have questions about the animal agriculture industry or labels you've seen on your favorite products? Let's chat..that's what the comment section is made for!


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