For more than a year, researchers in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University have conducted a monthly Food Demand Survey, called “FooDS.”

The purpose of the project is to track the preferences of at least 1,000 U.S. consumers regarding their sentiments on the safety, quality, and price of food consumed at home and away from home. The survey also tracks and indexes consumer demand for several retail meat products.

In the most recent issue, published in October, consumers reported that their willingness to pay (WTP) for nearly all meat products was higher than it was at the same time last year.

Of the 17 food issues tracked by the survey, consumer concern was highest last month for E. coli, Salmonella and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Taste, safety and price were ranked as consumers’ top-three most important values in purchasing food. Respondents reported their main challenge was finding affordable food that fit within their budget.

Two ad-hoc questions added to the October survey yield some interesting results. The first question surveyed consumers about bacon labels. About 9% of respondents said they had purchased “organic” bacon in their most recent bacon purchase, and 13% said they bought bacon labeled “hormone-free.” In actuality, added growth hormones are not allowed in pork production, and organic bacon makes up only 2.6% of total bacon market share. The researchers attribute these results to a tendency for people to want to give “socially desirable” answers.

The second question queried consumers on their participation in “Meatless Mondays.” More than half of consumers (51.6%) never had heard of “Meatless Monday,” and over 80% never had participated in “Meatless Monday.”

Over time, the researchers expect the information will help them predict changes in demand based upon current food issues. Collected data also will assist researchers in tracking eating intentions and changes in food demand.

You can access current and archived results of the survey at: http://www.agecon.okstate.edu/agecon_research.asp.