To what degree does ‘farm labelling’ influence consumers’ perception of food quality?
There are few notions more closely related to our food than that of the ‘farm’. We are constantly reminded of the ‘rural idyllic’ through the media, adverts and food packaging, but are we disconnected from the real meaning and understanding of the term ‘farm’, and if so, how does it influence us as consumers of farm foods and products? ‘Farm’ labelling is an area of increasing interest and focus for industry contention and media scrutiny through the rise of the use of ‘fake farm’ branding by supermarkets and food manufacturers. However, it has had little attention in academic literature beyond acknowledgement of its media discourse. This research set out to ascertain whether the inclusion of particular ‘farm’-related descriptive terminology on food labelling influences consumers’ perceptions of a food’s quality. A critical review of existing literature and media was used to map out the current background and context. Empirical research was then implemented, adopting a mixed methodology approach using online questionnaires and tasting sessions. Both qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques were carried to identify findings in the rich data set collected. The research did not observe any significant degree of influence towards quality perception caused by farm labelling, or indeed any of the labelling terms used in the research. However, what was demonstrated is the significant and notable level of misunderstanding and ignorance towards labelling terminology, despite participants perceiving their understanding to be much greater. The paper identifies a significant risk to both the food industry and consumers in these misconceptions towards food labelling and makes recommendations for how they might be addressed.