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Food still top consumer concern

COVID-19 has only accelerated the desire to know where food is coming from

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Glacier FarmMedia – Will Canadian farmers benefit from the ‘trust bump’ that’s been seen globally in the wake of COVID?

The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity held a webinar recently to look at how to better earn public trust in food and farming, where the topic arose.

Ashley Bruner, research co-ordinator for CCFI, said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased consumers’ desire to know where their food is coming from.

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Globally, there has been a record rise in general trust, with Canada seeing a 10-point increase in that general trust. Bruner said we will have to wait and see if that is reflected in the Canadian food systems.

CCFI’s own 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 over health care or energy cost increases.

“Efforts to provide healthy, affordable food are not in vain,” 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 worth keeping an eye on.

Food affordability continues to be an increased concern among Canadians, and recent reports forecast food prices increasing by two to four per cent 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” about their food safety; but an increasing number of Canadians trust food made in Canada over food produced elsewhere.

As more Canadians look to shorten their food chain and 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 and transparent food, their desire for high-quality and affordable food will continue to be paramount.

CCFI also found 91 per cent of Canadians know little or nothing about modern farming practices, but 60 per cent of them are interested in knowing more.

The organization’s 2020 research will be particularly noteworthy in determining how COVID-19 has impacted consumer views of issues such as food safety and food affordability.

About the author

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D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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