Conflicting consumer expectations make it tough to be a farmer

Survey shows consumers want farmers to be sustainable above everything else.



Aug 08, 2019


Add conflicting consumer expectations to the list of reasons farming is a tough row to hoe right now. In its new global study, Cargill found that consumers had a hard-to-satisfy wish list for those who produce the nation's food, with most claiming to feel knowledgeable about how food is raised.


Farmers should care most about “providing safe, healthy, abundant and affordable food,” a majority of survey takers said. Yet, those same respondents would prefer that their food come from smaller/specialty, local or organic farms, which can’t necessarily compete on cost.


“Farmers are foundational to feeding the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way, but they do so under pressure,” said Pilar Cruz, president of Cargill’s feed and nutrition business. “On one hand, affordable food is central to many families’ budgets. On the other, people are questioning the farming approaches that have made food more available and affordable.”


According to Cruz, Cargill sees all viewpoints, because it partners with farmers, food companies and beyond. As such, the company works to raise awareness and foster understanding across the value chain.


“Chairing the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Heartland Tour, a partnership aimed at showcasing and advancing ways for local farming to contribute to global progress, is one example,” she noted.


In its latest "Feed4Thought" survey, Cargill found that half of the people surveyed in the U.S., China, Mexico and Spain saw a farmer primarily as a “person who feeds the world.” Just a quarter chose “steward of the Earth’s natural resources” — perhaps a reflection that one-third of contributors doubted the long-term sustainability of today’s agriculture. They want farmers to be sustainable, though: “Sustainable” was the word that best described what participants wanted a farmer to be; “efficient” was second.


“Farmers are trying to feed the world and protect the Earth’s resources and provide for their families,” said Heather Tansey, sustainability lead for Cargill’s protein and animal nutrition businesses. “These are not mutually exclusive...