I recently completed my master’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Kansas State where I was able to work on a research project that is very interesting to me so I wanted to share with you a little bit of what I found. Don’t worry, I won’t get into the econometrics with you, but the title, “Consumer Acceptance of Omega-3 Enhanced Beef in Surveys and Retail Trials” should give you an idea about what I was working on.
Motivation for this research stems from the fact that the retail beef industry will continue to be shaped by changing consumer demand for meat products and their increasing awareness of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as demand for healthier food. Meanwhile, the beef industry and its stakeholders continue to pursue improvements in cattle production practices, beef processing methods, and marketing strategies. One of the opportunities for the beef industry to have a more positive role in the “health and nutrition” foods sector is through further nutrient enhancement with various feeding methods, which can help to meet the increasing demand for healthy foods. In particular, by feeding cattle an algae supplement, in addition to a conventional feed ration, the level of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, can significantly increase (from 16 mg/4 oz. serving for conventional beef to 400 mg/4 oz. serving for enhanced beef in this study). However, the extent to which consumers are willing to accept and pay for the nutrient enhancement can either delay or propel the advancement of this practice.
The research in my thesis measures consumer acceptance and willingness-to-pay (WTP) for enhanced omega-3 steak and ground beef products compared to conventionally raised and grass-fed beef. Data was collected from a retail trial with a small retail outlet in Colorado, and a nation-wide survey which included a choice experiment. The analysis of this data provides a better understanding of consumer acceptance and willingness-to-pay for the omega-3 enhanced ground beef and steak products.
While the retail trial did not provide significant results due to inconsistent sales we did find that for omega-3 enhanced ground beef and steak, higher income is associated with a higher probability of purchase and that males are less likely to buy omega-3 enhanced product than females.
Results from the nation-wide survey indicate that overall acceptance and willingness to pay for omega-3 enhanced beef was below that of grass-fed beef, but above that of conventional beef. When additional information about omega-3s was provided, it increased willingness-to-pay for enhanced omega-3 enhanced ground beef, but had no impact on willingness-to-pay for enhanced omega-3 enhanced steak. Still, grass-fed beef was most preferred. Additionally, there was an evident preference for locally raised product, guaranteed tender steak, and 90/10 ground beef. Regarding food safety interventions with ground beef, steam pasteurization was associated with a higher than average utility, while irradiation was lower than average as expected.
The analysis showed that higher prices are associated with lower utility, which was expected, and females had a significantly higher WTP for grass-fed ground beef than males. The average willingness-to-pay for grass-fed steak was estimated at $3.69/lb above conventionally raised product, compared to an estimated premium of $1.86/lb for omega-3 enhanced steak. For ground beef the average premium for grass-fed product was estimated to be $1.27/lb compared to $0.79/lb for the omega-3 enhanced product.
Though WTP premiums were found for omega-3 enhanced ground beef and steak, the estimates found are not necessarily high enough to justify the implementation of the enhanced omega-3 diet for cattle producers. If it costs less than these willingness-to-pay estimates to produce and market the omega-3 enhanced beef product, then this could be a viable production option for the beef industry. However, further research must be done to come to this conclusion.*
Remember, this is a brief overview of my research so if you are interested in learning more about the study, you can contact me with questions or view the complete document here: http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/20413
*Research on cost of production is currently being conducted at Kansas State University.