Cheap food: Have consumers been trained? – Feedback Friday

I commute, and most of my drive time is either spent pondering life’s happenings or listening to a book on cd. I recently have been thinking about things that I don’t have an answer to, there is no right or wrong answer/opinion, they are just random thoughts.

So I am creating a “Feedback Friday” category, where we can discuss some of these ponderings. I would love your feedback, thoughts, insights…

So here goes…

Do you think the consumer (including myself here) has been trained by retailers and marketers to seek out bargains, cut expenses, and look for deals in every aspect of their life – including wanting cheap food? In the U.S.A. we already spend less than 7% of our income on food – which is much less than most countries (Source: USDA ERS: Percent of consumer expenditures on food, alcoholic beverages…).

Think about it, the biggest shopping days of the year are after major holidays, where people can “save” so much money. Many cars are sold at the end of the year when they are marked down to make room for the new cars. And what about those 2-for-1 options at restaurants, fuel saver rewards for grocery store loyalty, loan interest rates that can be cut, or happy hour specials? I truly think we have become trained to find and seek out bargains (because we want to spend our hard-earned money on something else, right?). And we feel upset when we pay the full price for something, when we could have saved a few bucks on it.

When the weekly grocery store flyer comes in the mail, who doesn’t look to see what products are on sale? In the past month I have purchased: shrimp, chicken breasts, pork ribs, bananas, bell peppers, and apples that were marked down from their “normal” price. Nothing was wrong with them, they were just the featured items of the week, I like all of those items, and well, they were reasonably priced.

I hear a lot of people in the ag community across all sectors (conventional, organic, grass-fed, natural, etc.) talk about consumers moving to cheaper cuts of meat (i.e. hamburger vs steak) or balking at paying the price the food product is worth (because they saw it priced cheaper at another store/supplier). BUT, have consumers been trained to want cheap food? They can score deals in every other aspect of their lives, so why shouldn’t they expect to for their food? ** Note: I realize this generalization does not apply to all consumers who seek out specialty and niche products and will pay a premium for various items they deem important.

Why does that anger and frustrate us in the food production business? Shouldn’t we see that as an opportunity? I fully understand how much work and effort goes into raising and growing food, but most people do not. And when consumers see high price tags attached they think the farmer/rancher is making tons of money (which is not entirely true). Is there a way to make healthy, safe, nutritious, delicious food available at reasonable prices so they consumer feels like they are always getting a bargain? Or is food already a bargain purchase?

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What do you think? I would love to hear your thought on this matter? Am I completely crazy in my thinking, or am on to something here?

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
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– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)