Consumers Speak Up: Sustainable Farmers Wanted

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Consumers used to want farmers to be local, healthy or safe, but a new word is topping the chart this year, according to a new global study by Cargill. In a word, consumers want farmers to be sustainable. 

Cargill found half the 4,000 people surveyed in the U.S., China, Mexico and Spain saw a farmer, primarily, as a “person who feeds the world.” Just 25% chose “steward of the Earth’s natural resources”—perhaps reflecting that one-third of contributors doubted the long-term sustainability of today’s agriculture. 

The survey revealed that consumers had a big list of expectations for farmers with most respondents claiming to feel knowledgeable about how their food is raised. Farmers should care most about “providing safe, healthy, abundant and affordable food,” said the majority. Yet those same people would prefer their food come from smaller/specialty, local or organic farms—which can’t necessarily compete on cost, a Cargill release said.

Cargill Study
A 2019 Cargill study says 30% of survey respondents want farmers to be sustainable. 

“Farmers are trying to feed the world and protect the earth’s resources and provide for their families,” says Heather Tansey, sustainability lead for Cargill’s protein and animal nutrition businesses. “These are not mutually exclusive. Farmers around the world are adopting conservation practices to nourish people, the planet and the health of their businesses.”

Although 75% of the respondents thought technologically advanced farming was a good thing, very few respondents see farmers that way today. “Technologically savvy” was one of the terms least associated with farmers. 

The survey showed a 95% positive view of farmers. However, one of the survey’s key findings suggests a need to better share animal farming practices with consumers as animal protein producers were viewed less favorably than farmers who grew crops. 

“It’s tough to be a farmer,” acknowledges David Webster, who grew up on a farm and leads Cargill’s animal nutrition business. “We’re helping make farming part of the solution to the pressing need to do more with less across the food and agriculture industry.”


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