Nearly all Iowa households eat meat, and their meat purchase decisions are driven primarily by freshness, price and taste more than how or where the meat or poultry was raised, according to the latest Iowa Farm Bureau Food & Farm Index®, which was released last month.

The scientific survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), shows that a whopping 99 percent of Iowa grocery shoppers’ households eat meat.

The survey showed that Iowa grocery shoppers ranked freshness and price as the top factors driving their meat and poultry purchases. Both were rated at 24 percent. Taste was also a key deciding factor at 22 percent.

“Iowans have several options for protein in their diets today, including vegetarian sources, but animal protein continues to be important because it is a high-quality or ‘complete’ protein containing all the essential amino acids,” says Ruth MacDonald, an Iowa State University professor and chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. “Pork, for example, contains one of the highest amounts of protein per serving and also provides needed minerals like selenium, zinc and iron and vitamins B12, B6, thiamin and niacin. Lean pork is a safe, affordable choice for adding protein to a healthy diet.”

The survey showed that 96 percent of Iowa grocery shoppers report their households eat pork, which is good news for Iowa farmers who lead the nation in pork production.

The IFBF Food & Farm Index reached 507 Iowa residents aged 20 to 60 who have primary or shared responsibility for grocery shopping for their households. The 2017 survey is the sixth installment of the index, designed to gauge the factors driving Iowa grocery shoppers’ food purchases.

The 2017 Iowa Farm Bureau Food & Farm Index shows that while 99 percent of these shoppers say their households eat meat, 99 percent reported they also eat eggs and 100 percent said they consume dairy. To break it down even more, 96 percent of Iowa grocery shoppers indicated their households consume pork, 98 percent consume beef, 98 percent chicken, 97 percent report they eat turkey and 87 percent consume fish.  

The survey also showed that four out of five, 83 percent, read labels when they shop, underscoring their desire for more information about their food.  

Roughly one-third of the shoppers said they are looking for labels that show food is “raised/grown/made by Iowa family farmers,” “hormone-free” or “raised/grown/made in the U.S.”  

The survey also showed that 55 percent of Iowa grocery shoppers are also concerned about pesticides and insecticides and more than one-third have questions about foods made with biotech crops, often called GMOs. However, a large majority of shoppers, 72 percent, are very or somewhat likely to purchase GMO foods after learning that the World Health Organization and other scientific organizations note that GMO foods require less herbicides and other pesticides to grow.

Other factors that influenced them to buy GMO foods include: that biotech crops produce foods with better nutritional value, help feed people around the world, produce foods that are scientifically proven over 20 years to be as safe as conventional and organic crops, and produce foods with better texture or flavor.

“These results show that Iowans have questions about how their food is grown and raised and why farmers make the choices they make to improve the nutrition and availability of that food,” said Craig Hill, IFBF president. “Through our innovations and work to continuously improve what we do, food is safer, more affordable and more nutritious than ever before. Iowa farmers must embrace transparency and be ready to answer questions so consumers have the information and the choices they want at the grocery store.”

The IFBF survey also showed that 93 percent of Iowa grocery shoppers said they place trust in Iowa farmers, with 57 percent saying they place a “great deal of trust” in them.

“We believe trust is earned and a gift that must not be squandered,” Hill said. “That is why Iowa Farm Bureau and our farmer members understand that consumers have questions, and only by embracing transparency can we bring them the answers they seek about their food and how it was raised or grown.”