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This dissertation consists of three essays that investigate consumers’ response to technologies that mitigate food safety risks: cattle vaccines against E. coli and direct-fed microbials.
The first essay examines the influence of information framing and issue involvement on perceptions of the two food safety technologies. This essay also examines the role of issue involvement on food safety perceptions. A hypothetical survey which includes six information treatments was developed, and targeted a representative, random sample of U.S consumers. Participants were exposed to general information about E. coli and the two food safety technologies, a gain-framed message, a loss-framed message, a media story to elicit issue involvement, or combinations of the media story and the gain-framed or loss-framed messages. Empirical findings show that issue involvement has an impact on perceptions of E. coli foodborne infections. Both loss-framed and gain-framed messages were persuasive in shaping perceptions of vaccines against E. coli, and direct-fed microbials.
The second essay determines consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for beef products from cattle treated with the two interventions, and examines the persuasive impacts of information framing and issue involvement on WTP for the two technologies. The hypothetical survey previously described also included a choice experiment to achieve the WTP objective of this essay. Results reveal that consumers preferred cattle vaccines as an attribute in ground beef to direct-fed microbials. The highest WTP for ground beef produced with these interventions was recorded among participants who received the loss-framed message, and the loss-framed message and the media story.
The third essay identified ways of communicating food safety interventions using different labeling cues. A survey which targeted beef consumers in the state of Nebraska was developed, and asked participants to choose between ground beef with the standard label, and one that in addition to the standard label had a food safety label. Findings show that consumers are likely to choose a food label that makes positive but unsubstantiated claims of food safety than labels that support food safety claims.
Overall, study findings indicate a market potential for food safety attributes, and suggest a tactful description of these attributes on food labels.