Who do consumers trust? Farmers favoured for reliable info

Canadians may not know where their food is coming from, but they say they still overwhelmingly trust those who are producing it; well, kind of.

In a recently released telephone survey conducted last March on behalf of Agriculture Canada, pollsters found 91 percent of respondents say farmers and ranchers are a reliable source of information.

The national telephone survey of 1,520 Canadians was conducted by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc. between March 8 and March 29. It has a margin of error of +/- 2.5, 19 times out of 20.

You can find the complete survey, in PDF format, here.

Ninety-one per cent is an overwhelming figure — one that will be greeted positively by industry, and rightly so.

Still, it’s worth digging into the numbers a little more. For one thing, not everyone is convinced farmers and ranchers are a very trustworthy source.

When asked, responses were split between whether farmers and ranchers were very trustworthy (43 percent) and somewhat trustworthy (48 percent).

A handful of people, accounting for six percent of respondents, said farmers and ranchers were not a very trustworthy source.

Family ranked number one in terms of those people who are seen as being the most trusted when it comes to their food.

Ranchers and farmers were number two. Scientists rounded out the top three, with 38 percent saying they viewed the scientific community as being a very reliable source of information.

The numbers weren’t so cheery for food companies and grocery retailers.

Only seven percent of respondents see those two parties as being a very trustworthy source, while 47 percent considered the industry as being somewhat reliable. A full 46 percent of respondents said that they weren’t very trustworthy (30 percent) or were not trustworthy at all (16 percent).

Media didn’t fare so well, either with less than two-thirds of respondents (61 percent) citing the press as a very reliable or somewhat reliable source of food and agriculture-related information.

Responses, the survey found, also varied by age.

Canadians under the age of 35 were the least likely (63 percent) to rely on their friends for information about where their food comes from.

That’s compared to 75 percent for Canadians 55 or older and 78 percent of Canadians between 35 to 74.

The survey noted a gender difference, too. Women were more likely to trust their friends than their male counterparts (76 percent compared to 69 percent.) Women were also more inclined to trust environmental activists (71 percent) than men (60 percent).

Two-fifths of Canadians surveyed “indicated that organic farming is better than conventional farming.” It is not surprising that the majority of Canadians said they would turn to the internet for the answers to their agriculture and agri-food related questions.

No other medium was mentioned with the same frequency, the survey noted. Television and radio programs were second, at 28 percent, with newspapers rounding out the top three with 22 percent.

Then there’s the issue of Canadian exposure to the agriculture and agri-food sectors.

When asked if they had heard, seen, or read anything about the industry in the past six months, more than fifty percent of respondents (59 per cent) said they hadn’t. The exception to the rule was Quebec, where 55 per cent of those polled said they had heard some mention of the sector in the past six months, thanks, in part to ongoing concerns in that province about trade and its implications for the dairy sector.

The likelihood of recalling something about the sector increased with age and education, the survey noted.

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