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Study: Beliefs flavor what consumers taste

Study: Beliefs impact what consumers taste

What a person believes about how farm animals are raised can define their meat-eating experience. That’s one of the findings from researchers at Boston’s Northeastern University.

“We show that what you feel very directly influences not only how you interpret what you see but also very literally what you see,” said one of the researchers.

In the study, people tasted identical samples of beef jerky, roast beef and ham that were labeled as coming from a “factory farm” or from a more natural environment. In every case, the “factory farmed” meat got worse ratings – research participants even described it as, “saltier, greasier and stale.”

“These findings align with an emerging body of research which shows that our beliefs can influence how we evaluate food,” said a member of the research team.

While the study isn’t likely to prompt hand-to-forehead astonishment, it’s another illustration of the power of shared values.

The term “factory farm” conjures an image of industrial agriculture and CCFI’s research shows there is an inverse relationship between the size of a farm and the perception of shared values. The larger the farm, the less likely the public is to believe they share their values and the more likely it is they believe profit will be placed ahead of public interest. The results were the same when comparing large food companies with small food companies and national food companies with local food companies.

CCFI’s peer-reviewed and published trust model proves that shared values are three to five times more important than skills or competency when it comes to building consumer trust. CCFI’s research also shows transparency is the key to overcoming this “big is bad” mindset. The link between transparency and trust is real, direct and powerful. Food producers must commit to communicating the ethical foundation of their work. They must be willing to engage in a dialogue with consumers and embrace and answer their questions in an honest, open manner.

There’s no question that effectively demonstrating transparency will help food producers increase trust in their people, processes, people and brands. It might even make food taste better.