Amidst rising retail food costs, Iowa Farm Bureau’s Food and Farm Index® finds that price is the most important factor influencing Iowa grocery shoppers purchases of meat, poultry and dairy this summer.  

One quarter of Iowa shoppers (25% meat/poultry, 26% dairy) say price is the most important factor driving their purchases while two-thirds of shoppers (67% meat/poultry, 67% dairy) rank price in the top three. Additionally, 8 in 10 shoppers (79%) now say they are concerned about government regulation that increases food costs, up from 62% in last year’s survey. Government regulation that increases food costs went from the sixth most concerning aspect of food production among Iowa grocery shoppers in 2021 to the most commonly selected option in 2022.  

The annual survey, now in its 9th year, was conducted online by The Harris Poll in the spring of 2022 and asked 504 Iowans, ages 20 to 60, with primary or shared household grocery shopping responsibilities about their purchasing habits and attitudes. The index also uncovered other trends and factors shaping consumption habits, including how and where Iowa grocery shoppers purchase meat and dairy for their families.  

Nutrition sways Iowans to consume more meat, dairy
The index finds that 96% of Iowa households eat meat at least weekly, and 94% are weekly dairy consumers. Nearly 9 in 10 Iowa grocery shoppers consider animal-based proteins such as meat (90%) and milk (87%) 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 nutrition of 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 and those unlikely to purchase imitation meat were equally inclined to increase consumption of real meat and milk.  

Health experts like Dr. Ruth MacDonald, an Iowa State University food science and nutrition scholar, understand the appeal and value of those nutritional attributes.  

“Animal proteins - meat, milk and eggs - are ‘complete’ proteins which mean 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,” said Dr. MacDonald. “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.”

Nearly 9 in 10 Iowa grocery shoppers (89%) are likely to purchase food based on its ability to support and strengthen their immune system. Sixty-nine percent of Iowa grocery shoppers are likely to increase meat and poultry consumption after learning they provide the majority of zinc in our diets, which aids proper immune system function. 

After learning that the human body absorbs iron, which helps the body use oxygen, from meat and poultry more easily than iron from plant-based foods, 71% are likely to increase their meat and poultry consumption. Sixty-eight percent are likely to increase consumption after learning that meat, eggs and dairy are natural sources of Vitamin B12, which promotes brain development in children and helps the nervous system function properly. And 64% are likely to consume more meat, eggs and dairy after learning they are the highest quality sources of protein, which can help with weight loss and muscle tone.   

Expanded opportunities for real meat in Iowa
Fortunately for those Iowans who are meat consumers, or those more likely to consume meat after learning about its health benefits, farmers and the state of Iowa are doing more to make real, locally-raised meat available. The Iowa Legislature passed the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Program in 2021 to help expand, renovate and establish butchery facilities in Iowa. The bill lays the groundwork for additional options for farmers seeking markets for their livestock, opportunities for consumers who want to purchase meat locally and provides a boost to local economies with additional employment opportunities and sales.  

“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.” 

Knowledge spurs interest in ethanol
This year’s index also asked Iowa grocery shoppers about their likelihood to use ethanol in their vehicles. Similar to their reactions to real meat, poultry and milk, Iowa grocery shoppers are more likely to fuel up with ethanol as they learn more about its benefits. Seventy-one percent are likely to increase their consumption of fuel that contains ethanol after learning that corn-based ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 40-50%, compared to regular gasoline. Sixty-five percent are likely to increase their consumption of fuel that contains ethanol after learning that ethanol is made from corn, and Iowa leads the nation in both corn and ethanol production.  

Trust and confidence in farmers remain strong
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. Seventy-four percent were confident Iowa farmers are taking on the challenge of improving water quality, and that number jumped to 83% when shoppers learned about Iowa farmers’ use of no-till and reduced tillage practices to reduce soil disruption and protect water quality. 

After learning U.S. agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions per-unit of food, fiber and energy produced has declined by approximately 24% since 1990, nearly 3 in 4 respondents (72%) are confident farmers are implementing sustainable practices. 

“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.”

The research was conducted online in the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Iowa Farm Bureau among 504 adults, age 20-60, who live in Iowa and have a primary or shared responsibility for grocery shopping. The survey was conducted at 5/10 through 5/26/2022.

Data are weighed where necessary by education, age, gender, race, income, household size, material status, and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. 

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +5.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. This credible interval will be wider among subset of the surveyed population of interest.