Free range an enigma. What hope for organic?

Date Published: 15/01/2009

A somewhat startling piece published by Farmers Weekly reveals research suggesting that only two per cent of consumers know what the term ‘free range’ actually means. Two – per – cent.

This contrasts sharply with the main tenet of the article, which is that shoppers are increasingly looking for welfare-friendly food. So, they think animal welfare is important, but don’t actually know what they are looking for? Really?

Not having a pop at the FW, it’s just reporting on findings from a survey (yes, that old chestnut) by “food and grocery think tank”, IGD.

You do have to take these surveys with a pinch of salt sometimes. I’m pretty confident that if I asked 100 people what ‘free range’ meant, quite a few more than two of them would give me at least a passably good explanation. Whether that holds true when you’re faced with a researcher with a clipboard who’s looking earnestly at you for a good answer, is less clear…

One thing though remains true; as an industry UK farming, and not just organics, has to do a better job of explaining itself. If the benefits of free range chickens are still not clear (and even if you don’t accept the two per cent figure, this is still a good indicator that there’s a problem), how many of the messages about the strengths of organic food and farming are getting through? And how do we solve it?