A deep dive into consumer and producer views towards sustainability in agriculture

tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce in baskets: A deep dive into consumer and producer views towards sustainability in agriculutre

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) recently conducted focus groups with consumers and producers to explore their perceptions of sustainable agriculture. To better understand how living in remote locations may affect perceptions, the research also includes interviews with consumers who live in communities supported by Nutrition North. This qualitative research was used to delve deeper into changing consumer preferences and expectations around agricultural sustainability, and understanding producer environmental stewardship.

Among other things, consumers and producers were asked about their views on environmentally sustainable agriculture, consumer preferences and assurance systems, supporting sustainable agriculture and food waste.

Key findings

Consumers and producers

  • Sustainable agriculture is important for both consumers and producers.
  • The definition of sustainability differs: producers consider economic sustainability, while many consumers do not.
  • Say producers in Canada are doing at least the minimum to mitigate environmental impacts.


  • Are unable to assess the impact of agriculture on the environment or identify sustainable practices or products.
  • Say they are interested in learning more, especially from farmers.
  • Many consumers associate locally produced foods with environmental sustainability because they do not have to travel far to market. For many, buying local is an easy action to support sustainability and local businesses.
  • The majority of consumers say they would sacrifice convenience by reducing packaging and processing and some would sacrifice variety by eating in season, but few are willing to pay more for sustainably produced food.
  • Consumers agreed that food waste is a problem and there is a desire to reduce food waste. This desire was driven by economic and social values, not just environmental values.


  • Think consumers are misinformed, and many consumers agree they lack knowledge about the agriculture and food sector.
  • Say environmental practices are deeply engrained in operations.

Want to know more? The final report is now available online at Library and Archives Canada.


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