The personalized ideologies that shape how people think about and consume food may offer poultry producers useful clues about how to market to a public skeptical of the food industry and divided over food science.

The Pew Research Center study, “The New Food Fights: U.S. Public Divides Over Food Science” (, says there is a divide in people’s food preferences based on their beliefs about how two foods connect with their health: organic and genetically modified (GM) foods.

Just three of the many findings documented in the study include the following:

  • Two largely distinct groups of Americans are focused on food issues: those caring about the issue of GM foods and those focusing on eating healthy.
  • Food-focused Americans are more likely to buy organic and GMO-free foods. Younger adults see organic as a health boon.
  • Trust in information from food industry leaders is lower for those deeply concerned about the issue of GM foods.

Following are my five takeaways from the study for poultry marketers:

  1. Emphasize healthy eating – It’s a winning issue for poultry. People’s food ideologies are multifaceted, and influencing beliefs in one area (nutrition and health) may influence behavior in another preference area where views are soft.
  2. Be scrupulous with scientific claims – Scientific facts are a strong suit for the poultry industry, so protect credibility in this realm. The public is skeptical and believes the food industry influences research findings. Handle scientific claims with care.
  3. Don’t underestimate the vegan trend – Vegans and vegetarians are a small minority but more common among younger generations. People with food allergies are more likely to be vegan or vegetarian, suggesting that some food restrictions stem from adverse reactions to certain foods.
  4. Pay attention to consumers with allergies – Fifteen percent of U.S. adults report at least one food allergy. Addressing consumer needs in this area may overcome product resistance in other preference areas.
  5. Focus on social networks – Shape opinion in the context of social networks, which are hugely important to younger consumers. The Pew Research Center survey finds that people with similar eating philosophies tend to cluster together in networks.

People’s food ideologies are multifaceted and may be softly held on some attributes, so influencing beliefs in one area may influence behavior in unexpected ways in another. Understanding and influencing these consumer behaviors calls for a holistic approach.