Skip to Main Content

Policy opinions revealed in Consumer Food Insights Report

As the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture reviews the Farm Bill, consumers shared their opinions on food and agriculture policy in a new survey. The third Consumer Food Insights Report from Purdue University offers insights into the popularity of specific policies and how opinions differ depending on a consumer’s income.

Increased funding for research to create crops more resistant to heat drought and flooding, and conservation programs to pay farmers and ranchers to adopt climate-smart practices were the most popular policies included, with more than 80 percent of the consumers in support. In addition, 63 percent of the respondents agreed that climate change will influence food prices.

Food safety and inspection ranked as the most important USDA budget category.

Support for Highest Ranked USDA Budget Category. Graphic Consumers ranked food safety and inspection as the most important USDA budget category, March 2022. Consumers ranked food safety and inspection as the most important USDA budget category. The majority of consumers think the Federal Government should spend more in this category. (Purdue University Image/Courtesy of the Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability)

The survey-based report out of  Purdue’s Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability assesses food security and spending, consumer satisfaction and values, support of agricultural and food policies and trust in information sources. 

Additional key results from the March survey include:

  • The Sustainable Food Purchasing (SFP) Index remained at 68/100
  • Share of households experiencing very low food security rose to 9.7%
  • Inability to find specific foods at the store decreased to 21%
  • Total food spending increased by 8%
  • 16% of spending on food away from home went to delivery
  • At present, consumer food demand is price insensitive

The March survey added an examination of differences in responses across low, middle and high income brackets. The results showed differences in support of policies like SNAP benefits and a sweetened beverage tax, as well as in self-assessment of sustainable food purchasing. 

Favorable Support for Food and Agriculture Policies by Household Income, January - March 2022 Consumers shared their opinions on food and agriculture policies in a new survey by Purdue’s Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability. A large majority support increased funding for research and conservation, according to the Consumer Food Insights Report. (Purdue University Image/Courtesy of The Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability)

“The survey results show that income is a big driver of food preferences and buying behavior,” said Jayson Lusk, the head and Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue, who leads the center. “Lower income consumers spend a larger share of the their income on food, place greater weight on food affordability, are more likely to choose generic over branded products, and are overall less happy with their diets than higher income consumers. As a result, policies that increase the price of food have a disproportionate impact on lower income households.”

Another interesting policy-related result was broad support for the regulation of environmental claims that food companies can make, he said.

“Consumers may be confused by or have difficulty navigating the current food sustainability advertising landscape,” Lusk said. “Seventy percent of respondents supported new regulations on what companies can say about their products.”

The survey results showed large majorities support individual policies that could improve food system outcomes, such as funding more agricultural research or regulating confined animal feeding operations, said Sam Polson, a food and agriculture survey scientist for the center and co-author of the report.

“However, from a policymaking perspective, there is an increasing congressional focus on large omnibus legislation, and the public opinion data on these bills tend to be less clear,” he said. “It is difficult to say that the popularity of a policy like expanding pandemic-related SNAP benefits would hold when attached to other policy objectives.“

"Our results also reaffirm conventional wisdom in policymaking: spending less rarely makes for popular policy. People are much more likely to support the status quo or favor increased federal spending.”

The Sustainable Food Purchasing Index (SFP) value for March remained the same as February at 68/100. The score reflects consumer food purchasing that aligns with a set of key recommendations for healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The index includes six components correlating with different strategies for achieving food system transformation: nutrition, environment, social, economic, security and taste.

Higher income consumers tended to rate the sustainability of their diets as higher than did lower income consumers, particularly on dimensions related to taste, security, economics, and nutrition. By contrast, there were very little difference in high vs. low income on sustainability dimensions related to social and environment, Lusk said. He further discusses the report in his blog

Sustainable Food Purchasing Index by Household Income, March 2022 The Consumer Food Insights Report examined differences in responses across low-, middle- and high-income brackets. The results showed differences in support of policies, as well as in self-assessment of sustainable food purchasing. (Purdue University Image/Courtesy of the Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability)
The Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability is part of Purdue’s Next Moves in agriculture and food systems, and seeks to use innovative data analysis shared through user-friendly platforms to improve the food system. In addition to the Consumer Food Insights Report, the center offers a portfolio of online dashboards.

Featured Stories

lab grown meat
Survey tallies consumer attitudes toward lab-grown meat alternatives

Many consumers view conventional meats as both tastier and healthier than laboratory-grown...

Read More
Against a black backdrop, three dozen egg carton are neatly arranged to surround many loose brown eggs
Butcher Block adds eggs from chickens fed orange corn

The Boilermaker Butcher Block’s selections will now include farm fresh eggs laid by Purdue...

Read More
Jingjing Liang stands tall in front of a wall of monitors showing pictures of different forests.
Scientists from dozens of countries coming to Purdue for forestry collaboration in Science-i Bridging Worlds Workshop

In the spirit of building a community to manage and protect the world’s forests, Liang and...

Read More
Julie Hickman stands in construction site with hard hat ready for work.
Behind the Research: Julie Hickman

Many people are involved in the remarkable range of programs, services and facilities that...

Read More
A landscape photo of a pond and the surrounding forest area at the Southeastern Purdue Agricultural Center where Dr. Bryan Pijanowski's lab has set up sensors and microphones to monitor wildlife before, during and after the solar eclipse.
Center for Global Soundscapes Study Will Record How Animals Respond to Solar Eclipse

The upcoming solar eclipse on April 8 has drawn the attention of scientists and the general...

Read More
Purdue College of Agriculture.
Farmer Sentiment Improves As Interest Rate Expectations Shift

U.S. farmers’ perspective on the future improved in March helping to push the Purdue...

Read More
To Top