Marketing of locally produced sustainable animal fiber products

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $140,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
John Bernard
University of Delaware
Hikaru Hanawa Peterson
Kansas State University
Gwendolyn Hustvedt
Texas State University

Annual Reports

Information Products

Marketing Local: Logos, Labels, and Location (Conference/Presentation Material)
Your Farm Has a Story (Conference/Presentation Material)
Georgia Label (Other)
Texas Label (Image)
Texas Marketing Guide (Fact Sheet)


  • Animals: goats, sheep


  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, agricultural finance, market study
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of this project is (1) to determine if consumers are willing to pay a premium for locally produced, certified organic, environmentally friendly, or “all natural” fibers and (2) to develop marketing plans for Southern animal fiber producers to obtain maximum benefit from additional branding of products made from locally grown, sustainable animal fiber.

    Consumer interest in where their products are made and how they have been made has been increasing substantially in recent years. Unfortunately, most American fiber producers are not currently in position to take advantage of this consumer trend. This project will identify economic opportunities for sustainable animal fiber producers and operators who have incorporated or are considering incorporating fiber-bearing animals in their land management system in the Southern region. The key strategic feature of our proposal is in appealing not only to sustainability-focused, so-called LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) consumers, but also to consumers with interest in where their products are produced.

    The project will bring about potentially considerable economic, environmental, and social impacts to the Southern agriculture. In terms of economic benefits, the determination of premiums, if any, consumers will pay for apparel products labeled for their sustainable attributes such as “All Natural”, “Environmentally Friendly”, or “Organic” will help provide incentive for fiber producers to pursue, track and communicate sustainable production methods including organic production. Marketing opportunities for animal fiber will encourage the use of fiber producing, browsing animals such as sheep, goats and camelids (llamas and alpacas) that can contribute to the health of an organically or sustainably managed pasture, farming, or other land systems. The benefits of the project would also reach proportionally more women and minority producers than projects targeting other livestock systems.

    The project specifically aims to develop pricing, labeling, and marketing strategies for US animal fiber producers in marketing products using their fiber including wool, mohair, and alpaca. This objective will be addressed using the Vickrey auction method, common in the experimental economics field. A total of 240 consumers, divided into auction sessions of 20 people, will participate across three locations in the regions producing animal fiber; Texas, Georgia, and Virginia. Each session will use socks made with wool, and mohair and alpaca blends to collect bids in four rounds. In each round consumers will be presented with a set of socks with different attributes to bid on. The attributes will include: Locally Grown, and sustainable production attributes such as All Natural, Environmentally Friendly, and Organic. Different information will be given to consumers in each round to see how various presentations influence willingness-to-pay for the attributes. The collected bids are direct estimates of the values consumers are willing to pay for these fiber products. The auction participants will be asked to complete a questionnaire to collect demographic, attitudinal, and behavioral information. Based on the analysis of the data, pricing, labeling, and marketing plans for Southern fiber producers will be developed. The findings will be communicated through extension bulletins and presentations at industry meetings.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall objective of the project is to develop pricing, labeling, and marketing strategies for US producers of wool, mohair, and alpaca. Our findings are aimed to benefit not only producers who primarily raise these animals for fiber and meat, but also those producers who have incorporated or may consider incorporating browsers as a viable weed management option in their sustainable farm, ranch, or forestry operations. Specifically, this research will:

    1. Estimate the value consumers place on apparel products made from locally grown fibers and fibers grown using sustainable production methods.

    The growth of US population has been occurring in the South (El Nasser, 2006). Agricultural producers in the Southern region pursuing sustainable production methods should explore the possibility of exploiting their proximity to the consumer base. Consumers have had the desire to contribute to environment quality and support local agriculture (Hartman Group, 2002; Josling, Roberts, and Orden, 2004). A recent surge in the interest in locally produced foods offers evidence that it is worth exploring whether consumers are willing to pay a premium for locally grown fiber.

    2. Investigate the effects of labeling on premiums for Southern fiber products.

    Production methods are redence attributes that are not visible and can only be meaningful to consumers when communicated through an effective labeling scheme. Consumers responses have been shown to vary by the perceived image of the label (Peterson, Bernard, and Fox, 2007). Our study sites have been selected to allow for exploring how consumers respond to regional brands such as “Go Texan” and “Virginia Grown,” depending on their familiarity and perceived images.

    3. Identify and characterize the attitudes and motivations of market segments of consumers willing to pay premiums for products produced from sustainable, locally grown animal fiber.

    Consumers with different preferences are willing to pay different prices for products with varying attributes. The provider of products can take advantage of this and maximize her return, only if she can distinguish the market segments and tailor the products to specific segments. The questionnaire to be completed by experiment participants will be designed to appropriately to solicit relevant demographic, socioeconomic, and attitudinal characteristics of the respondents that can be related to their willingness to pay for locally grown, sustainable fiber products.

    4. Develop and communicate pricing, labeling, and marketing strategies to Southern animal fiber producers using sustainable production methods.

    Research findings are only meaningful when they are communicated to stakeholders. The ultimate output of our project is a set of material (in paper, in presentations, and on the web) that outlines a comprehensive marketing strategy for Southern animal fiber producers using sustainable production methods.

    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.