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Survey: Pacific Northwest Eclipses National Average in Demand for 'Local' Foods

KELSO, Wash. (March 16, 2011 - PRNewswire)—"Local" is nothing new to residents of the Pacific Northwest. But as the practice of supporting nearby farms and food products grown close to home gains in popularity nationwide, one thing is clear: the Pacific Northwest is clinching its role as a leader in supporting local production at a rate three times higher than the rest of the nation.

According to a new survey of 1,000 Oregon and Washington consumers conducted by NSON Opinion Strategy and commissioned by West Coast poultry producer Foster Farms, Pacific Northwest consumers have an unwavering preference for locally-grown foods with 92 percent saying it is important to purchase foods "Grown in the Pacific Northwest." This is in stark contrast to the national average revealed in a 2010 survey by Yale and George Mason universities which found that just 26 percent of U.S. consumers "often" or "always" purchase fresh, locally-grown foods.(1)

The Foster Farms survey also revealed that more than one-third of Oregon and Washington consumers are more intensely devoted to local foods now as compared to last year, with the most important of these foods being poultry (81 percent), second only to milk (84 percent).  Survey respondents agreed that they go the extra mile to seek out local foods at multiple stores and markets, referring to themselves as "modern day foragers."

"Consumers in Washington and Oregon demand the best, local foods because they feel they are fresher, better quality, safer, good for the environment and good for their community," said Ira Brill, director of marketing for Foster Farms, which works with 32 independent family farms across Oregon and Washington to produce its Pacific Northwest grown chicken. "At the same time, the majority of shoppers are unaware that some so-called 'fresh' foods, including poultry, could take more than four days to reach grocery store shelves and are often from out of state. In fact, we learned from the survey nearly half of respondents said they would refuse to buy fresh poultry if they knew it took longer than 48 hours to be delivered to their store."

Additional survey findings include:

  • More than 80 percent of PNW consumers believe they differ from the rest of the nation because they prefer local foods (86 percent), are more conscious of environment/farm practices (81 percent) and are connected to local farms (81 percent).
  • Respondents believe that freshness (92 percent), independent family farms that care (89 percent), higher quality (75 percent), healthier (75 percent) and greater variety (50 percent) distinguish PNW grown foods from foods grown elsewhere.
  • More than 60 percent of PNW consumers agreed that the PNW has a larger bounty/more fresh, locally-grown foods than other parts of the country and believe locally-grown foods are higher quality, better tasting and healthier than foods grown out of state.
  • A third of respondents were unaware of, and more than half responded negatively to, the fact that nearly half of fresh chicken sold in grocery stores is shipped from states outside Oregon and Washington from as far away as the South. More than 43 percent of respondents would refuse to buy fresh poultry if they knew it took longer than 48 hours to be delivered to their store.
  • Nearly 60 percent of consumers would be willing to devote one day per week to preparing and eating only PNW-grown foods.

"This study confirms what we have learned in other research," said Brill. "Pacific Northwest consumers prioritize freshness, food safety and environmental standards and know that local producers do the best job meeting their needs."

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