Young farmer with bucket feeding sheep

For years, consumers’ definition of “organic” has not completely aligned with USDA Organic certification standards. Animal welfare is a particular area of disparity gaining both consumer and media attention, and we’re eager to dig into this topic in our upcoming syndicated study, Beyond Organic 2024: Expanding Distinctions in Food & Beverage.

Until recently, USDA Organic standards have been largely silent on animal welfare issues. And although we are starting to see regulatory changes take effect, consumer sentiment continues to evolve and it remains to be seen if more comprehensive measures will be necessary to fully meet their expectations.

As illustrated by the ongoing Alexandre Family Farms controversy (which we’ll be talking more about in this week’s podcast), consumer trust is at a fragile tipping point. In 2022, we found that only 16% of consumers agreed that “better treatment of animals” was implied or suggested by the term “organic.” Conversely, 79% of consumers desired more stringent animal welfare requirements within the USDA certification process.

Despite feeling constrained and uncertain about choices currently available in the marketplace, many consumers were still looking to organic as a proxy for meeting their expectations around animal welfare in 2022. 17% reported that “[supporting] better treatment of animals” was a primary reason they bought organic foods and beverages." Additionally, 73% of fresh meat category buyers considered if the product was humanely raised and handled at least sometimes — 23% always considered this.

But what does “better treatment of animals” really mean to consumers today? And how can they confidently verify if an animal was indeed humanely raised? This skepticism and increased awareness point to consumers’ desire for both greater certainty and greater benefits in their food choices.

While this may feel like a daunting challenge for farmers, producers, and manufacturers, there is a significant opportunity to restore consumer trust by understanding and anticipating their needs in this area. And that’s exactly what our current research aims to help you do. Connect with Melissa Abbott today to learn more about specific topics that will be covered in Beyond Organic 2024 and how this report can support your objectives.

Source: Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next, Hartman Group