The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity held a webinar to look at how to better earn public trust in food and farming.
Ashley Bruner, research co-ordinator for CCFI, said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased consumers’ desire to know where their food comes from.
Globally, there has been a record rise in general trust, with Canada seeing a 10-point increase in that trust. Bruner said we will have to wait and see if that is reflective in Canadian food systems.
CCFI’s 2019 research into gauging public attitudes about Canadian agriculture and food found Canadians are more concerned about the rising cost of food and keeping healthy food affordable than they are about healthcare or energy cost increases.
“Efforts to provide healthy affordable food are not in vein,” said Bruner, noting there are tangible impacts of industry’s effort to do so.
As is consistent with recent years, CCFI found more Canadians are concerned with ensuring there is enough food to feed Canada than they are with having enough food to feed people outside of the country.
Bruner didn’t speculate on how COVID would impact these numbers, but said it is something to watch.
Food affordability continues to be a greater concern among Canadians, and recent reports forecast food prices could increase by two to four percent over 2020.
“If these forecasts are realized, we can safely predict that food prices will continue to be a top issue among Canadians,” said Bruner, noting food retail and processing sectors are also under extreme pressure to change food safety practices in light of the pandemic.
CCFI has found that half of Canadians surveyed are “very concerned” of their food safety; but a growing number of Canadians trust food made in Canada over food produced elsewhere.
As more Canadians look to buy local because of the pandemic, there are questions around the longevity of this trend, said Bruner. Other organizations have found that while consumers want more local food, their desire for high quality and affordable food will continue to be paramount.
CCFI also found 91 percent of Canadians know little or nothing about modern farming practices, but 60 percent are interested in knowing more.
The organization’s 2020 research will be particularly noteworthy in determining how COVID-19 has affected consumer views of issues such as food safety and food affordability.