New Report Shows Increase in Iowan Grocery Shoppers Paying Attention to Labels, Yet They Don’t Want to Pay More for Food

Written by Theresa Rose on May 12, 2015

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – May 12, 2015 –More Iowan grocery shoppers are paying attention to food labels (82%) than in 2013 (68%), but price and taste still drive their food buying decisions at the grocery store, according to the latest Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index® conducted online for the IFBF by Harris Poll. Nearly 4 in 5 Iowan grocery shoppers say price is a driving factor for meat and poultry products (78%), followed closely by taste (74%) and more distantly by nutrition (43%) and food safety (42%).

As Iowan grocery shoppers kick off the summer grilling season and celebrate National Beef Month, the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index® also shows that 4 in 5 (84%) eat beef at least weekly.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Food & Farm Index® is a semi-annual survey of Iowan grocery shoppers to identify the factors driving their food purchases. The survey included Iowa residents between 20 and 60 years old who have primary or shared responsibility for household grocery shopping; 506 such respondents were interviewed online for this latest wave of research.

Iowans pay attention to labels

Interestingly, while the Index shows a 14 percentage point increase in Iowan grocery shoppers paying attention to labels over 2013, price still matters ( with 3 in 5 Iowans saying they would not pay more for beef products with an ‘antibiotic free’ label if it costs significantly more.

Safety is on the minds of Iowan grocery shoppers reading labels, with half thinking a ‘raised hormone free’ or ‘raised antibiotic free’ label means the food choice is safer, while a ‘raised in the U.S.’ label seems safer to 44 percent of Iowan grocery shoppers and 37 percent think ‘raised organically’ labels mean a product is safer.

However, shoppers also noted that having additional facts about labels can help alleviate their concern. For example, of the Iowan grocery shoppers who had concerns about ‘antibiotic-free labels,’ 76 percent stated that additional facts would help alleviate their concern about antibiotic use in livestock.

“We know information has the potential to influence consumer choices in the grocery store. For example, 67 percent of those surveyed think a ‘raised naturally’ label ‘means something,’ when in fact, it is not a term recognized or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” said Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Iowa State University professor and chair of Food Science and Human Nutrition and national speaker on food science issues.

The survey shows around half (47%) of those who expressed concerns about antibiotics say they feel better knowing that meat processed in the U.S. and sold to grocery stores and restaurants is routinely tested by the USDA and FDA to ensure no antibiotic residue is present and that antibiotic residue is illegal in meat. Also, finding out that any antibiotics used for livestock requires FDA approval and must be rigorously tested and proven safe alleviates concerns for 46 percent of those who expressed concern about antibiotics; 36 percent feel better that farmers have to follow FDA rules and adhere to strict withdrawal times when using antibiotics for food chain animals; and finding out that farmers work with veterinarians to administer antibiotics only when livestock need it helps alleviate concerns for 32 percent of Iowan grocery shoppers.

Dr. Tom Burkgren is the executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). He provides analysis and advocacy on issues related to the practice of swine medicine and helps develop public food safety policy for the AASV. Dr. Burkgren agrees that many layers of safety protocols at livestock processing facilities work together to ensure food safety. “Inspectors at harvesting facilities look at every animal and screen for more than 100 compounds. This is called multi-residue testing or MRM. For example, in pigs, intensive MRM screening tells us that very few, typically less than 1 percent, of market swine test positive for antibiotic residue at the plant and there are safety protocols in place to ensure that any carcass with violative residues is immediately removed, so it never makes it to the food chain,” says Burkgren. “Every livestock farmer today must work hand-in-hand with veterinarians to ensure that an animal gets the right drug, at the right dosage, for the right duration, and that the drug is withdrawn in sufficient time before harvest.”

“The results of our 2015 Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index® should be seen as an opportunity for farmers to continue reaching out to consumers and helping them understand more about the diverse food choices we grow,” said IFBF President Craig Hill. “That’s why IFBF engages in campaigns like ANF, Farm Strong, Farmers Feed Us, and many more to help connect farmers to consumers, but I encourage each farmer to take the time to explain more about the care they take to grow safe, healthy food.”

Where consumers turn for trustworthy information on food safety

For the second consecutive year, farmers and dietitians/nutritionists are Iowan grocery shoppers’ most trusted sources (http:/ for information about food safety. Farmers were ranked as one of the top three trusted sources by 45 percent of grocery shoppers followed closely by dietitians (43 percent); medical professionals were noted by 39 percent.

When it comes to information regarding food safety and antibiotic use in livestock, there is a virtually dead heat tie between regulatory agencies such as the FDA and USDA (50%) and farmers (49%) as a top-three trusted source.


Harris Poll conducted the spring survey online on behalf of the Iowa Farm Bureau, within the United States between February 12 and February 23, 2015 among 506 Iowan adults who have primary or shared responsibility for grocery shopping for their household. The previous study was conducted online by Harris Poll between November 21 and December 2, 2013 among 503 respondents. For a complete methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Laurie Johns at

About Harris Poll

Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples around the world. Frequent polls tap into a representative sample of Americans of all ages, genders, income and ethnic backgrounds. From sports to health, politics to the economy, the Harris Poll reflects Americans’ opinions on a wide range of topics and are regularly published by national, local, consumer, business and trade media outlets. Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to anchor and propel communications campaigns. Armed with relevant insights on public opinion, public and private sector clients harness the power of the Harris Poll to gain both credibility and coverage to drive their desired business outcomes. Contact us for more information.

For more information on the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index®, please visit Iowa Farm Bureau at