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In recent research, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) sought to “unpack the dangerous disconnect between trust and responsibility for safe, health food,” said CFI CEO Charlie Arnot. “In the consumer’s mind, there is a bit of a disconnect.”

He continued people in the food system think of safe food in terms of pathogens and illness, whereas consumers tend to view safe food as healthy food.

“We want to detail ways to close the gap, and we want to dig into where consumers get their information, learn what they look for and who they trust and explore current attitudes towards trust,” Arnot said.

In late January, CFI unveiled their latest research looking at the connection between trust and food safety. 

Looking for information

As consumers are bombarded with varying degrees of information from a wide variety of sources, Arnot explained they are forced to turn to places other than the media for information, particularly when it comes to groups entrusted to ensure safe food.

“Out of the 11 groups consumers were asked to rate, they trusted family, a family doctor, dieticians, farmers, university scientists and nutrition advocacy groups most,” he said. “Fifty-five percent of people have complete trust in their family.”

Of those surveyed, 41 percent trusted farmers to ensure safe food. 

“One of the things we see in our research is a lack of trust in regulatory agencies and food companies,” Arnot said. “If regulatory agencies aren’t trusted, who are people going to rely on? We have to talk about what it takes to restore trust.” 

For example, when the subject of safe and healthy food comes up, trust in food companies is difficult, but Arnot explained, “The good news for food companies and regulatory agencies is the majority of people are still in the middle.” 

Disconnect

“Let’s look at the disconnect between those who are trusted and those who are responsible,”  Arnot said. “There is a gap and a problem here.”

Federal regulatory agencies are ranked first in responsibility for safe, healthy food, but they are rated eighth in trust. Food companies were rated second for responsibility, but 11th in terms of trust. 

“We do see some folks who are fairly well aligned in terms of responsibility and trust for food safety,” he said. “Farmers are third in both categories.”

Arnot summarized, food companies and state and regulatory agencies are in a challenging position, but farmers have an opportunity to leverage their position for the food industry. 

Additionally, CFI sees opportunity for dieticians, university scientists and nutrition advocates because they are trusted, but aren’t held responsible for food safety. 

“There is more of a chance to rely on dieticians, university scientists and nutrition advocates for messaging,” Arnot explained.

Managing the disconnect

When a disconnect exists between trust and responsibility, Arnot said one of two actions is possible, including more regulation and oversight or increased cost. 

“We need to restore trust,” he said, noting that costs include losing clients, increased regulation, loss of consumer confidence, increased operating cost, loss of reputation and reduced employee satisfaction. “There are significant economic and social consequences.” 

To build trust, improving public perception is important. 

“Whether in the government, corporate or other worlds, we have the freedom to operate right now,” Arnot explained. “Social license is the privilege to operate with minimal formal restriction based on public trust.” 

“It’s important to operate in a way that is consistent with social expectations and consumer values,” he added. “When we operate by social license, we get to operate that way because we meet a set of expectations, and in doing so, we’re granted flexibility and lower costs.” 

Driving trust

Three factors help to build trust and, thus, improve social license. 

“The first factor is the role of influential others,” Arnot said. “The role of influential others continues to evolve.” 

Historically, family, friends and other credentialed individuals are respected and drive conservations as “influential others.” Today, relatability is also a factor. 

“The next factor is competence,” he said. “That’s where our science comes in. Science equals credibility. We’re very good at this piece.”

Finally, confidence is the third factor, which is one of the biggest drivers in trust. 

“We surveyed 6,000 individuals, and we found shared values are three to five times more important to building trust than competency,” Arnot explained. “We can’t abandon fact, but our case has to be started by leading with values.” 

He continued, “We have to talk about maintaining a sustainable balance. If values are the foundation for building trust, we can’t abandon science, but at the end of the day, we have to be economically viable, as well.” 

Today’s consumers, however, are also changing, asking what we should be doing, rather than what we can we doing. 

Arnot said, “We need to engage in asking the question, ‘What should we be doing?’” 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When working with consumers, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) looks to extensive research, including consumer surveys, demographic studies and more, to understand how to connect and relay messages to the public, particularly as consumers are asking questions about whether or not their food is good for them.

“We’ve identified a disconnect, and we have used the information we have to understand what makes food information credible,” said CFI CEO Charlie Arnot. “What makes food information credible is based on the consumer’s relationship to truth.”

Inside the consumer

Through their research, CFI identified five consumer segments – scientists, philosophers, followers, wishful thinkers and existentialists. 

“People’s assessment of food news and its credibility is shaped by their relationship to the truth, which could be subjective or objective,” Arnot said.

Scientists and philosophers tend to root their idea of the truth in rational, scientific objectivity while wishful thinkers and existentialists tend to hold a value-based, scientific truth, understanding truth by what feels true based on deeply held beliefs. 

“In the middle, there is a combination of objectivity and subjectivity,” Arnot said. “The followers are looking for guidance from others to understand what they can do to sort out issues.”

Of the population, six percent are scientific, nine percent are philosophers, 39 percent are followers, 32 percent are wishful thinkers and 14 percent are existentialists, according to CFI.

Opportunities

Where the opportunity with the consuming public lies for the agriculture industry, said Arnot, is with the followers. 

“Followers are only 10 percent of the voice in the conversation,” he explained. “They are unsure about what to believe, and they are less likely to take a part in or contribute to conversations. However, 40 percent of conversations are driven by wishful thinkers, who tweet, capture and share information.”

Philosophers influence and engage followers, while scientists provide technical information. 

“The philosopher interprets the scientific evidence through a simple, clear, ethical and moral lens, which influences the followers,” Arnot said. “Followers are looking for advice that is simple and feels right because it is ethical. The combination of ethics and value allows us to influence.”

Relatable

Arnot and CFI identified four strategic opportunities that make information relatable to followers. 

“Relatability is also an important factor to being influential to others,” Arnot described, noting relatability is the aspect regulatory agencies struggle with. 

Primarily, consumers are looking for knowledgeable sources that are also understandable.

“Second, they are looking for sources that tell them what to do clearly, given their life’s situation,” he said. “This is an opportunity to step in and say, ‘I appreciate your concerns. Here’s what you can do.’”

Next, messengers should have similar responsibilities to the consumers and provides guidance that “feels right.”

In delivering messages about food to consumers, the information must be simple and easy to understand with arguments that consumers can visualize. 

“Remember, most importantly, we have to give followers the comfort of knowing they're doing the right thing and permission to believe they’re not making a mistake for their family,” Arnot said. “The message should be unambiguous and deliver a simple solution to address specific vulnerabilities of followers.”

Arnot revealed results of CFI’s latest survey during a late January 2018 webinar. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – “In Casper and throughout the whole country we are seeing a need and desire for people to reconnect with their food and learn how to grow their own food again,” comments Jude Buchanan, secretary of Casper Community Greenhouse Project. 

Members of the Casper Community Greenhouse Project and students from Star Lane Center are working together to make the greenhouse at Mills Elementary operational and install a community garden at the school to benefit the surrounding area. 

“We are putting food back into the hands of people because we’ve had some generations who have lost touch with growing food and gardening,” states Buchanan. “We need people to know it costs pennies on the dollar to have good food, and we are re-instilling that idea back into people’s minds. That’s very powerful.”

Mills greenhouse

The project at Mill’s Elementary started when principal Coebie Taylor-Logan saw a need and desire in her students for better nutrition. The school raised money and built a greenhouse in 2010, but it still remained non-operational. 

“Mills had this non-operational greenhouse, and I saw that as a really great project for the Star Lane kids,” states Buchanan. “I talked to the faculty at Star Lane to see if they would be interested in helping the Mills kids make their greenhouse operational and use it as one of their learning projects for the students.” 

The Casper Community Greenhouse Project solicited the help of Colorado Aquaponics to help the school install an aquaponics system in their greenhouse to help grow the produce. 

Currently, through the aquaponics system, students are able to grow leafy greens, such as lettuce.

Aquaponics utilizes fish as a nutrient source for plants when they are grown in water. 

Commodities

The school also grows trays of wheat grass, which are currently available for sale to consumers. 

“Wheat grass is very nutritious for juice or smoothies and is probably one of the biggest things that we are able to sell right now at the Mills greenhouse,” comments Buchanan. 

Buchanan mentions in the near future they would like to grow strawberries in the greenhouse, and through the help of students from Star Lane, they have designed an outdoor garden center that will be added to the greenhouse at Mills Elementary and serve as a community garden, as well. 

“We should be able to grow some root vegetables, like carrots and beets, this summer in the outdoor garden,” says Buchanan. “Most likely, we will grow tomatoes, as well.”

On May 17, the school will be installing their community garden, and all volunteers are welcome to come and join in on the fun. 

The school is also starting to grow flowers through the help of Master Gardner’s and have a plant sale on May 9 in preparation for Mother’s Day. 

“Right now we have four different types of flowers that we are growing – marigolds, geraniums, sweet peas and snapdragons,” describes Buchanan. 

Greenhouse project

The Casper Community Greenhouse Project started in 2011 with the mission of producing fresh and healthy local food for the Casper community in a way that will educate and foster the community’s involvement. 

“From our standpoint, we would like to see greenhouses become pieces of a school curriculum for K-12, all the way up into college,” comments Buchanan. “We want to keep doing projects like this with the schools.”

Danica Sveda began forming the Casper Greenhouse project in 2011. From Sveda’s efforts and current presidents Jesse Miller’s initiatives, the Casper Greenhouse is a local grassroots movement. 

“The goal of the Greenhouse Project is to have multiple small greenhouses and some large ones in the Casper area,” explains Buchanan. 

She continues, “We would love to build a large scale greenhouse in the downtown part of Casper and have it not only be a place where we can grow food but also be a teaching kitchen with a theater and possibly a little restaurant that is attached to it.” 

“We want people to know what to do with this produce once it is in their hands. It’s all about providing and educating people with the right tools,” adds Buchanan.  

Madeline Robinson is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

“In today’s environment, the terms health and diet are rampant,” said Roxi Beck of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) during a Feb. 27 webinar that summarized research on consumer health. “Many believe health has to do with dieting or restriction.”
While health means eliminating a food or certain group of food for some consumers, other consumers perceive health as a focus on increasing consumption of one area, for example fruit or protein.

“Altogether, each person who defines ‘healthy’ comes to us with a different definition,” she said. “Most of the time, people have a specific goal when they think about health.”

Focusing on a trend that they’ve noticed in the past few years, Beck said CFI is focusing on opportunities to capitalize on to help consumers with concerns and skepticism that they have about their food. 

“Health is very broadly defined, and it’s no wonder, with all of the different labeling and marketing claims that are out there, consumers have broad definitions of health that is focused on labels,” Beck said. 

Recent trends

While labeling claims have existed for many years, a new trend has gained traction with consumers lately – “free from.”

“Whether it’s GMO-free, sugar-free, any sort of indication that we’re opting out of something – even on organic or natural foods – that seems like a risk and seems closer to how nature intended, consumers are drawn to this,” Beck said. “There is a 21 percent increase in this trend, and we don’t expect it to go away soon.” 

CFI’s YouTube channel “CFI Street Talk” goes directly to consumers on the street with questions about how they view the food system. A recent video asked consumers whether they prefer food with 30 grams of sugar of 10 grams of sugar plus five grams of added sugar.

“This seems like a pretty easy equation from a caloric standpoint, but it has become highly polarized,” Beck commented, noting sugar has become a hot topic of conservation in terms of health lately. “We know that sugar, whether it is natural or perceived unnatural indicates people’s preference in this conversation.”

While the answers may seem simply, when the information of “added sugar” is inserted, consumers chose 30 grams of sugar, citing concerns about additives that trigger health issues, noting that “additives” cause concern. 

“More and more, we’re seeing consumers say, ‘They’re adding in the other sugar for a reason, and I don’t want to eat that reason,’” she said. “This might cause us to giggle, but it points to other research we’ve done, as well.”

Beck points consumer concern as a symptom of the size and scale of the food industry, coupled with the idea that big is bad as it relates to the corporate food system. 

“These are not simple conversations,” she added.

Consumer research

CFI has engaged in consumer research for over 10 years to isolate what consumers think and feel as it relates to the food system. 

Their research often strives for a representative sample of the population, across a variety of age groups, income brackets, geographic region and food habits. They have also focused on several consumer groups, in particular  moms, millenials, foodies and early adopters. 

“One of the things we do is we have consumers rate their level of concern about topics in the food system,” Beck explained. “More importantly we ask areas about life experience in general.”

Top concerns including rising healthcare costs, which was targeted by 76 percent of consumers as a concern. The next three top concerns marked by over 60 percent of respondents – affordability of food, keeping healthy food affordable and food safety – all relate to the food system. 

In particular, moms, millenials, foodies and early adopters marked all of those issues with a higher level of concern.

“We see the people who have a higher level of concern are the ones who are more likely to purchase groceries and are decision makers in their family,” Beck said. “These people think about food on a consistent basis, so there’s opportunity here.” 

Sharing information

Because food is a concern, foodies and early adopters in particular are actively seeking information on their food. 

“Because they are actively seeking information, making sure our communications targets these people and allow us to connect with them is important. We also have to consider what channels we connect with them through to meet them where they are at,” Beck said.

Thinking about these concerns, Beck said producers should consider whether they have a policy around communicating about food health and affordability, whether they connect with these audiences and who is the right messenger for these topics. 

Attitudes

When asked to rate their level of agreement on a series of statements, Beck noted almost 30 percent of the population feels very pressured to buy food with healthy attributes, particularly when eating with family members. 

The results also vary by groups. Millenials felt more pressure to eat healthy, regardless of who they are with, as do people who have a higher level of formal education. 

In general, 42 percent of people believe the food system is moving in the right direction, where 24 percent disagree with this statement. While useful, Beck noted it is difficult to tell why people believe the food system is moving in the right direction. 

“We can’t unpack that with just one question, but it’s good to know, in general, we are headed in the right direction,” she said.

Other opinions shows 37 percent of people believe food grown organically is more healthy, 43 percent are more concerned about healthy eating than a year ago and 50 percent aren’t confident they are making healthy food choices.

“This is an opportunity,” Beck commented. “There is lots of information there, but half of consumers aren’t confident they’re making healthy decisions.”

Consumers also mention simple concern – not indicating whether they have enough knowledge or if they have made a decision on the topic – about hormones, artificial ingredients, antibiotics, genetically modified food.

“We see a focus on these trends and we see opportunity to talk about these topics,” Beck said.

Look for more about how consumers shop and get more information about their food in next week’s Roundup. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report was made available to the public on Feb. 19, opening up the public comment period until April 8.

“Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes,” states the report’s executive summary.

On Feb. 20, a media teleconference was held, with comments from six previous DGAC members, including Cheryl Achterberg, Roger Clemens, Joanne Lupton, Theresa Nicklas, Linda Van Horn and Connie Weaver.

Whole diet

“In the new guidelines, there was emphasis on food and full diets, versus only a nutrient or food group approach, but with that approach there are both gains and losses,” commented Achterberg.

She expressed appreciation for how the report considered combinations of foods and how they interact with each other.

Weaver stated in agreement, “I appreciated the context of looking at the diet as a whole instead of overemphasizing a single nutrient approach.”

Achterberg also noted that there are many different kinds of diets that can be healthy for the American public.

“I am pleased that they introduced new issues like aspartame, caffeine, dementia and food insecurity and that they did more work with added sugar,” she added.

The science, she then countered, isn’t perfect.

“We have lost a great deal of evidence, literature and background in more specific advice,” she said.

Data concerns

Achterberg questioned the validity of the conclusions brought forward by the report and stated, “It was not clear that all of these recommendations are science- or evidence-based, which raises the whole issue of how an evidence-based review was done.”

Questioning the relevance to how Americans actually eat, she acknowledged the opportunity for new and exciting research for nutritious diets.

Lupton echoed concern about the research, referencing the report’s indicated health benefits from a diet high in fiber.

“People who eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains may be a proxy for a health conscious person. If someone is eating a lot of whole grains in one day, he or she may also be someone who exercises more or goes to the doctor more,” she explained.

Lupton’s other concern was the emphasis of public policy in the 2015 report.

“In 2005, we were told very clearly to limit what we did and to stick to the science. When it comes to the government, after the report was in, they would deal with public policy,” she noted.

Policy recommendations within the report included required labeling for added sugars and taxes imposed on sweetened beverages.

“I am very interested to see how the government is going to deal with these types of recommendations,” she said.

Concerns raised by Nicklas illustrated inconsistency across the collected data used for conclusions in the 2015 report.

“The criteria used in these studies may have been very different and not consistent across studies,” she commented.

Red meat

The executive summary of the report stated, “There was variability across the food groupings, and this was particularly apparent in the meat group. For example, ‘total meat’ may have been defined as ‘meat, sausage, fish and eggs,’ ‘red meat, processed meat and poultry’ or various other combinations of meat.”

Nicklas addressed the disparity of meat definitions in the report and stated, “The recommendation to lower intake of red meat and processed meats is a convoluted recommendation, and the broad category of red meat includes both fatty red beef and lean beef, which haven’t been separated out for this particular recommendation.”

The executive summary of the report identified a higher intake of red and processed meats to be more detrimental as compared with lower intake.

Potatoes were also specifically mentioned in the summary, as some studies considered them to be vegetables while others did not. Also, potato preparation, such as baked or fried, was not clearly defined across the data.

Dietary patterns

“A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in alcohol among adults; lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains,” the summary announced.

An important footnote referenced the red and processed meat.

“As lean meats were not consistently defined or handled similarly between studies, they were not identified as a common characteristic across the reviews,” it clarified. “However, as demonstrated in the food pattern modeling of the Healthy U.S.-style and Healthy Mediterranean-style patterns, lean meats can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern.”

Further concerns

The Healthy U.S.-style and Healthy Mediterranean-style patterns were two out of the three patterns modeled in the report, in addition to the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern.

Van Horn recognized further confusion, addressing consumer understanding of how different nutrients are defined.

“I can tell by the media calls that I have had already that there will certainly be continuing concern, and a little confusion perhaps, among the public in regards to some of the previously considered settled science such as dietary cholesterol,” she stated.

Clemens also noted, “The cholesterol and saturated fatty acid stories remain confusing, and that confusion in the general public will be a challenge.”

Further issues addressed by the panelists included how sodium levels were approached, the gap between food patterns that were and were not addressed, and the addition of sustainability as a component in conclusions drawn for healthy Americans.

“I think work ahead will be in helping to further explain how to translate all of these recommendations into a user friendly, day-to-day eating pattern that the public can truly embrace,” commented Van Horn.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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