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December 30, 2022 Issues & Insights

Cost of food top concern for Canadians in 2022

Grocery bills have been Canadians’ top concern for five years in a row, according to research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI).

Although this may not come as a surprise in 2022, CCFI’s most recent public trust research indicates that the cost of food is even more worrying to consumers now than it was in the past.

“The large rate of growth in concern…and the level of concern reaching a tracking-high…illustrate that concern about the price of food is not just a blip in public perception, but rather, it is the central issue that is front of mind for Canadians,” the research summary states.

As part of its annual research to track public trust in Canada’s food system, CCFI asked Canadians to rate their level of concern on a range of life issues. According to the 2022 findings, concern about several finance-related issues has “grown significantly.”

In 2022, 69 percent of respondents were extremely concerned about the cost of food, up from 61 percent in 2021. This was followed by inflation (66 percent extremely concerned), energy costs (58 percent), keeping healthy food affordable (56 percent), and the Canadian economy (53 percent).

CCFI recommends that food system stakeholders not take these concerns lightly, instead using it as an opportunity to connect with Canadians worried about the cost of food.

“Appeal to Canadians not just as a food system stakeholder, but as a consumer yourself who is also concerned and impacted by this key issue,” the report suggests.

Perceptions of Canada’s food system return to “pre-pandemic levels”

CCFI’s research also found that overall perceptions of the food system have shifted from the tracking-high of positive impressions seen in 2020.

When asked if Canada’s food system is headed in the right direction, 33 percent of respondents agreed, a decrease from 39 percent in 2021. Twenty-four percent felt it was going in the wrong direction, an increase from 19 percent in 2021, while 43 percent didn’t know.

“For the past two years many impressions improved as a reflection of the goodwill Canadians felt towards the food system and its reliability throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in public perceptions indicate the ‘Covid-boost’ is regressing, but attitudes have largely fallen back in-line with pre-pandemic levels,” the report explains.

“Despite a significant increase in those critical of the food system, sentiments remain comparable to earlier years. A strong majority of Canadians are either positive or unsure about the direction of the food system.”

Farmers still considered the most trustworthy food system stakeholder

This research and previous years’ studies show that despite the uncertainty faced by many Canadians, they trust that our food system would provide what they needed.

Confidence in the system’s individual stakeholders is similar to that of 2021. When asked to rate their trust in specific stakeholders, respondents rated farmers the most trustworthy group (42 percent rating them as very trustworthy), with scientists coming in second (35 percent). The groups rated the least trustworthy include politicians (8 percent), government agencies (14 percent), and food processors and manufacturers (14 percent). As well, trust in university researchers, small independent producers, and Canadian agriculture overall dropped considerably.

Generational perspectives come into play in these trust metrics. While younger Canadians, particularly Gen Z (born in 1997 or later), tend to have greater trust in most individual stakeholders, Gen X (born 1964-1980) and Boomers (born 1964 or earlier) have greater overall trust in agriculture and the food system.

Sustainability and climate change remain on Canadians’ radars

Sustainability continues to be a concern for Canadians, though it’s not top-of-mind for many, given current economic constraints. Although the majority are more focused on daily issues, such as the cost of food and inflation, “they simultaneously expect the food system to demonstrate leadership on threats to the food system such as climate change and other sustainability issues,” the report states, noting this is an opportunity to reassure consumers of our sustainability practices.

“Communicate your innovative sustainability efforts and demonstrate to Canadians that while they may be preoccupied with other issues, the food and agriculture system is pro-actively addressing one of the greatest threats of our generation.”

Climate change and the global food crisis are very concerning to half of the respondents. Food safety, availability of quality food, and safety of food imported from outside of Canada were of great concern to 44 percent of Canadians.

Around 40 percent worry about having enough food to feed people in Canada, humane treatment of farm animals, nutritious value of the food you eat, and regulation of Canada’s food system.

The summary report is available on the CCFI website.

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About the Author

Piper Whelan
Piper grew up on a purebred cow-calf operation in Southern Alberta, and she studied English at the University of Alberta and journalism at the University of King's College. She has written for industry publications for more than a decade and is currently the Digital Content Specialist for Alberta Beef Producers.

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