Cost of food top concern for Canadians, says public trust report

Canadian Centre for Food Integrity research coordinator Ashley Bruner

The cost of food, fuelled by inflation levels not seen in decades, is the top “life” issue concerning Canadians.

That’s the headline emerging from the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) 2022 public trust research report, released during the organization’s annual summit in Toronto this week.

The 2022 findings illustrate that the cost of food remains the top concern for Canadians and is the main factor influencing purchasing decisions. Not only has the rate of concern for the cost of food increased significantly, but it has also reached a tracking high in the history of the CCFI survey. In the 2022 report, 69 per cent of those surveyed were highly concerned about the cost of food, 66 per cent were highly concerned about inflation, while 58 per cent listed energy costs as their top concern.

While consumers worry about day-to-day issues like their grocery bills, they also count on the food system (from farm to plate) to proactively address threats such as climate change and other sustainability issues, CCFI reports. “The Canadian food system must demonstrate to consumers that we are listening and pro-actively responding to their concerns,” says John Jamieson, CCFI’s president and CEO.

In this interview, Bernard Tobin speaks with Ashley Bruner, CCFI’s director of research. She notes that the focus on cost of food and inflation has led to a drop in concern for other issues that typically top the survey, including climate change and affordability of healthy food. (Story continues after the interview.)

The research, however, does indicate that Canadians understand that climate change and related environmental issues is one of the greatest threats to the food system. Bruner adds that Canadian consumers are looking for the food system to demonstrate leadership and innovation in confronting climate change to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada’s food system.

Every year, CCFI asks Canadians if they are happy with the direction of the food system. The 2022 survey reveals a significant increase in those who feel the food system is going in the wrong direction. Bruner notes, however, that much of that growing dissatisfaction can be linked to escalating cost.

The research also reveals that Canadians want to see better performance in reducing food waste and managing food packaging.

Bruner feels there is a good news story in attitudes toward animal welfare. Most Canadians say they have no problem consuming animal products as long as animals are humanely raised. The 2022 report noted a significant increase (9 percentage points) in the number Canadians who believe meat, milk and eggs are produced humanely. Bruner does add, however, that a significant gap does exist between the believers and non-believers and efforts to communicate about animal welfare need to continue to maintain that momentum.

The 2022 public trust research was conducted online from July 4 to 25 and surveyed 2,918 Canadians.

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