Concerns for Fairness and Preferences for Organic Food

Recent findings from behavioral economics suggest people are concerned about the fairness and inequality in simple distribution experiments. This study sought to determine whether such considerations also carry over to food choice. A conjoint-type experiment was developed and administered to a random sample of the U.S. population via mail survey to determine whether consumers, when purchasing food products, are concerned about the distribution of benefits across the participants in the agricultural supply chain (small farmers, large farmers, agribusiness, supermarkets, and the consumer) and to determine the extent to which the fairness models proposed in the general economics literature (and variants on these models) explain food choice. Results indicate that, aside from themselves, people prefer small farmers to receive the largest benefit from food purchase. The inequality aversion models proposed in the general economics literature do not exhibit much explanatory power, unless modified in non-trivial ways to fit the context of food. Finally, we find that preferences for distribution of benefits, along with measured beliefs about the relative distribution of benefits accruing to producers of organic and conventional foods, is a significant factor explaining consumer willingness-to-pay a premium for organic food.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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