Food safety is by far the number one agricultural issue on Canadians’ minds, says a new poll on livestock-related farm matters.
The Ontario Farm Issues Study poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid in February, found 57 per cent of Canadians ranked the safety of meat, milk and eggs as their most important agricultural issue.
A far distant second at 14 per cent was the care of farm animals. Genetic engineering in farm animals registered with just six per cent of the nearly 1,200 respondents.
And while Canadians say they’re concerned about food safety, they don’t think food itself is unsafe -- even meat, which appeared to suffer a major public relations blow with the high-profile Maple Leaf Foods listeria disaster.
It turns out that for safety, poll respondents rated meat almost as high as milk, long considered the benchmark for wholesomeness in Canadian diets. Of those surveyed, 89 per cent said they consider meat somewhat safe or very safe to eat. Milk weighed in at 92 per cent, just behind eggs at 94 per cent.
However, meat and poultry processors ranked near the bottom of respondents’ list of favourable groups and individuals involved in farming and food production. Only 18 per cent of respondents said they had a warm or favourable impression towards processors, compared to almost 50 per cent who felt that way towards farmers, ranchers and university scientists working to improve food and farming.
Farmers, in fact, came out on top in most scenarios.
For example, the number of non-farming Canadians with a positive impression of farmers shot up significantly since 2006, up to 52 per cent from 42 per cent.
And despite consumers’ preoccupation with food safety, even more said they were concerned about farming’s sustainability and profitability (24 per cent) than the price of food (18 per cent) or food safety (17 per cent).
“We can utilize and leverage ourselves to be good, believable spokespeople,” says Colin Siren, senior researcher at Ipsos Reid, who presented the results to the group. “Most Canadians maintain a positive impression of farming and are predisposed to thinking that farmers are hard working and good people.”