One West Virginia University researcher was recently recognized for his efforts in determining the market potential for grass-fed products.
Jason Evans, research assistant professor in the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences Division of Resource Management, was awarded the Food Distribution Research Society Applebaum Award.
Presented annually by the society for outstanding graduate student research in food distribution and marketing, Evans earned the $1250 cash-stipend for his dissertation entitled “Determining Consumer Perceptions of and Willingness to Pay for Appalachian Grass-Fed Beef: An Experimental Economics Approach.” He completed his dissertation as part of WVU’s Natural Resource Economics Doctoral Program.
In addition to the stipend, he has been asked to present his research at the society’s annual conference Oct. 11-15 in Columbus, Ohio.
“This is a great honor,” Evans said. “It’s nice to see people within the industry recognize this as cutting-edge research that is important to producers and consumers alike.”
His research was part of a multi-year, multi-location effort aimed at researching, developing and optimizing pasture-based beef production systems. The federally funded undertaking was a cooperative project conducted by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Virginia Tech, Clemson University and WVU.
In order to determine consumer perceptions and willingness to pay for grass-fed beef, Evans conducted studies in select Morgantown and Pittsburgh grocery stores. Participants were asked to complete a brief survey concerning their beef eating and purchasing behavior as well as basic demographic information.
Through sampling, each participant’s relative preference for grass-fed and grain-fed products was determined. Through a series of questions he then determined the consumer’s willingness to pay for the items.
“We found that consumer response to grass-fed beef was overwhelmingly positive in terms of appearance, nutrition and taste,” he said. “Likewise, those who preferred it were also willing to pay a premium price.”
Although it is difficult to estimate regional or national demand for grass-fed beef given those results, Evans says it’s clear these products would meet with some success if production becomes substantial enough to facilitate a consistent, 12-month supply that is readily available to even those consumers who typically purchase meat in conventional supermarkets.
“Our goal is to provide Appalachian cattle producers with the opportunity to produce and market a specialty product that could yield larger profit margins for their operations and contribute to rural economic development in the region,” Evans said.