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Survey: Consumers Increasingly Care About Climate Change And Solutions To Curb Industry Impact 

  • Survey finds that consumers see agriculture and livestock as part of the broader climate change solution.

  • Whether consumers see themselves as bearing some responsibility for climate change depends on personal views.

  • Consumers tend to see the impacts of climate change in relation to their own country – not globally.

  • Cargill is working with farmers to implement new practices and adopt new technologies to help mitigate climate change.

 

When it comes to climate change, consumers view agriculture as a part of the solution rather than the problem, according to the results from Cargill’s latest Feed4Thought survey.

Feed4Thought is a regular consumer survey from Cargill’s animal nutrition & health business that explores perspectives on leading topics in the animal protein supply chain. The latest survey, conducted in January 2021 by ENGINE, polled a demographically representative sample of 2,510 adults in the U.S., Brazil, France, and South Korea. 

Here are four takeaways that we think will be insightful to producers:

Livestock farming industry can play a part in the solution

Consumers around the world have varying views on what drives climate change. According to the survey, most consumers see deforestation and transportation as the biggest climate-change contributors. While raising livestock was not cited as a main driver in the survey, consumers said they feel it still has some impact. At the same time, a near-equal number of consumers say they feel confident in the livestock industry’s ability to help negate climate change.

Consumers also believe it’s the industry’s responsibility to reduce the impact of climate change, with farmers, ranchers, and the companies that produce and/or process beef having important roles to play. But that responsibility doesn’t fall exclusively on the industry, in their eyes. They say a solution must be pursued in conjunction with governments and via their own actions as consumers.

Consumer responsibility

So, if consumers believe that they bear some responsibility in curbing the climate impacts of the food they eat, are they willing to make changes in their purchasing or consuming behaviors? According to the survey, it depends on their personal views. The number of consumers willing to make personal changes doubles when climate change is of personal importance: 80% vs. 40%. Many consumers also say they are willing to pay a premium for low carbon-footprint products (47% of consumers) or reduce the amount of beef and dairy in their diet (48% of consumers).

The survey found that climate-related factors are important in consumer consumption of beef or dairy, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into what’s put in grocery carts. This is in part because consumers said they weigh other factors higher—such as taste and no antibiotic use—than they do environmental impact when making purchasing decisions.

Consumers think nationally, not globally

When evaluating impacts of climate change, consumer perceptions tend to be anchored in their home country—not on a global scale—and perceptions will vary country-by-country. For example, in South Korea, far fewer people indicated transportation as a significant contributor to climate change than seen in other countries (35% compared to 60%-80% elsewhere). Another example is in Brazil, where consumers are far more likely to indicate climate change as personally important compared to other countries. And in the U.S., consumers more often cited manufacturing as a driver, in part due to the high prevalence of manufacturing in the U.S.

Important work is already underway

Today, livestock are estimated to contribute about 14.5 percent of global human-originated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and approximately 3 percent of U.S. emissions are attributed to methane produced during enteric fermentation 1. Though the contribution is relatively small, consumers believe that reducing methane emissions is still important. Of those surveyed, one-fourth said they would purchase more beef if cattle were fed an additive or used other technology to reduce methane emissions. This indicates a growing consumer interest in innovative solutions to curb methane emissions from agriculture—and farmers are already stepping up to the plate.

To help reduce the impact of methane released by animal agriculture, Cargill is working with farmers to implement new practices and adopt new technologies. Focus areas include best farm management practices, improved animal productivity through feed and nutrition, and rumen modifiers.

“Farmers are critical to feeding the world sustainably and responsibly,” said Ruth Kimmelshue, who leads Cargill’s animal nutrition & health business. “With a growing population and rising consumer interest in climate change, they are also part of the solution to address some of the toughest environmental challenges. At Cargill, our focus continues to be advocating for farmers by supporting and amplifying efforts to reduce their environmental footprint, methane emissions, and, in turn, climate impact.”

Learn how Cargill is helping to curb methane emissions here.

 

1Tackling Climate Change through Livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities (fao.org)

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