Southern Vegetable Buyers’ Perceptions of the Social and Environmental Attributes Associated with Organic, Certified Naturally Grown and Locally Grown Labels

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $128,373.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2024
Grant Recipients: University of Georgia; Georgia Organics; Athens Land Trust; Georgia Farmers Market Association ; Augusta Locally Grown
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Vanessa Shonkwiler
University of Georgia
Dr. Julie Campbell
Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia
Dr. Cesar Escalante
University of Georgia
Southern Vegetable Buyers’ Perceptions of the Social and Environmental Attributes Associated with Organic, Certified Naturally Grown and Locally Grown Labels *** Marketing strategies for small family farms selling produce directly rely heavily on the information conveyed by an indication of origin or a certification of production practice. Numerous studies have been highlighting the importance of some labels in getting a price premium. Specifically, USDA Certified Organic, “locally grown” and the “natural” claim have been identified as important benchmarks and have been associated with different attributes that consumers perceive as determinant in making their purchase decisions. The organic label is commonly associated with “no pesticides”, “no fertilizers” and “non-GMO”. Referring to the same attributes, numerous studies point out that “locally grown” is perceived as a substitute for organic. The “natural” claim has been associated with attributes such as “no antibiotics”, “no artificial additives, preservatives or artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners”. *** Most studies have been focusing on these few recurrent attributes identified by buyers. While these attributes have been useful to emphasize the buyers’ main perceptions, we argue that these attributes are mainly the outcome of contextual considerations rather than a more objective and holistic understanding of certification standards. Precise environmental and social outcomes are expected from producers following these standards. While social and environmental ethics have become a source of differentiation in the food industry, family farms’ strategies have been more scattered. *** In order to better understand how producers could use these social and environmental ethics that they follow in order to be certified, we developed a methodology aiming at evaluating three labels (USDA Organic, Certified Naturally Grown and Locally Grown). We selected eight social and environmental attributes from organic and CNG requirements and ask 1817 respondents to evaluate the labels in three different ways: individually, one compared to another and the combination of each production practice with locally grown. We used Likert scale and respondents were randomly assigned to answer a third of the questions for each of the three types of evaluation. *** Our findings show that locally grown gets better rating for the 8 social and environmental values tested than USDA Organic and CNG. The comparison of labels highlights a consistently higher rating for locally grown compared to production practices. A combination of indication of origin in addition to each production practice gets an overall better rating than an individual label rating, especially for USDA Certified Organic.
Conference/Presentation Material
Vanessa SHONKWILER, University of Georgia
Target audiences:
Farmers/Ranchers; Educators; Researchers
Ordering info:
[email protected]
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.