In the face of rising food costs, Iowa grocery shoppers said price is the most important factor influencing their purchases of meat, poultry and dairy this summer, according to the latest Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index®.

Consumers are paying 12% more for groceries than they were a year ago, according to data tracked by the federal government.

Two-thirds of shoppers ranked price as one of the top three factors influencing their meat, poultry and dairy purchases, and more than 25% said it was the most important factor. Additionally, eight in 10 shoppers now say they are concerned about government regulation that increases food costs, up from 62% in last year’s survey.

The annual Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index®, now in its ninth year, was conducted online by The Harris Poll in spring 2022 and asked 504 Iowans ages 20 to 60 with primary or shared household grocery shopping responsibilities about their purchasing habits and attitudes.

Nutrition remains key
While food costs have risen, meat and dairy remain staples in the diets of most Iowans. The index found that 96% of Iowa households eat meat at least weekly, and 94% are weekly dairy consumers.  

Nearly nine in 10 Iowa grocery shoppers consider animal-based proteins such as meat and milk as healthy options, and more than two-thirds of shoppers say they are likely to consume more meat and dairy after learning more about the unique nutritional attributes of those products.  

Even shoppers who said they were likely to purchase imitation meat or milk are swayed by the nutritional value of real meat, poultry and dairy. When learning about the high quality protein, Vitamin B12, zinc and iron found in real animal meat, likely buyers of imitation meat as well as those unlikely to purchase imitation meat were equally inclined to increase their consumption of real meat and milk.  

The appeal and value of those nutritional attributes is understandable, said Dr. Ruth MacDonald, an Iowa State University food science and nutrition scholar.

“Animal proteins — meat, milk and eggs — are ‘complete’ proteins, which means they contain all the required amino acids needed for humans. These foods are also great sources of nutrients that maintain and enhance the immune system, such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc, which are not as well absorbed from plant-based foods,” she said. “Having a well-balanced diet is always important, but especially during high stress times like these, it’s even more important to ensure the foods we eat are rich in the vitamins, minerals and proteins that support and strengthen our immune system, and animal-based proteins remain an excellent source.”

Iowa consumers are finding real, locally raised meat more readily available across the state due to efforts by Iowa farmers and the State of Iowa to expand small butchery facilities.

“The expansion of farmers markets and local meat lockers is an exciting trend, and it creates great opportunities for farmers, consumers and their communities,” said Brent Johnson, Iowa Farm Bureau president. “We know consumers want to learn more about where their food comes from and the families who raise it, and the expansion of lockers and farmers markets provides opportunities to support local farmers and purchase locally raised food, which we know is growing in demand.”

Ethanol perspectives
This year’s index also asked Iowa grocery shoppers about their likelihood to use ethanol in their vehicles. It found that 71% of Iowa consumers are likely to increase their consumption of ethanol-blended fuel after learning that corn-based ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 40% to 50% compared to regular gasoline.

Trust in Iowa farmers has remained strong over the nine years of polling. This year, 92% of Iowa grocery shoppers say they trust Iowa farmers, 84% are confident that Iowa farmers care for their animals responsibly and 80% feel confident that Iowa farmers are caring for the environment.

“There are many encouraging takeaways from the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index®, but it’s great to see the overwhelming amount of trust Iowans place in farmers, which is a testament to the steps farmers are taking to protect the land and water while providing responsible care for our livestock,” said Johnson. “Iowa farmers are committed to sustainability and farming responsibly, and earning and maintaining trust from our fellow Iowans is something we take very seriously. We’re honored to have that trust and support.”