May 15 2017 10:00 AM

These seven labeling claims were compared to see which have the most impact on the consumer.

When it comes to making purchasing decisions, consumers can be difficult to gauge, and traditionally, they vote with their wallets. That makes labels a vital piece of the purchasing decision. Many companies understand this concept, but the question a recent study posed was which claims carry the most weight?

A recent University of Illinois and University of Nebraska study ranked common production attributes that consumers look for on product labels of beef, chicken, milk, and eggs. The top three attributes that consumers looked for were “no growth hormones,” “non-GMO,” and “humanely raised.”

Those three attributes surveyed higher than “no antibiotics,” cage-free,” “grass-fed,” and “certified organic.” Although growth hormones and genetically modified organisms (GMO) are both approved as safe, they were quickly picked out as a decision-maker for consumers.

Interestingly enough, the “certified organic” label encompasses many of the other production attribute labels, but it was selected as the least important of the seven.

Lead author Brenna Ellison shared that this finding was probably the most surprising. “When most people hear the term ‘organic,’ they think of produce, fruits, and vegetables. I don’t think that term translates as well to animals,” Ellison shared.

The third place label, “humanely raised” was more important to consumers purchasing milk and eggs than beef and chicken. Ellison suggested that the preference was likely tied to the fact that the animals supplying these products continually produce throughout the year.

Labels are meant to clarify products, but even for defined label claims, this study indicates that it can be hard to know if that goal is accomplished.

Maggie Seiler

The author is an associate editor. She covers feeding and nutrition, youth activities and heads up the World Dairy Expo Supplement. Maggie was raised on a 150-cow dairy near Valley Center, Kansas, and graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in agricultural communications and animal sciences.