Food traceability in the context of Karoo lamb : supply chain and consumer perspectives

20 Sep 2012

As food markets have become more globalized, consumers have become more concerned about the origin of the foods they eat as confidence in the quality and safety of foods produced outside their local region or country has decreased.Traceability systems address these concerns by accommodating the importance of establishing a link between the product, the producer and the place of production, and these are gaining momentum in the food industry. This paper describes the product attributes that could influence the decision-making process of consumers towards purchasing a specific type of meat, namely Karoo lamb. Karoo lamb is the product of specifically reared lambs in the Karoo region of South Africa and has a distinctive taste. The information used in this paper was obtained in the first phase of a research endeavour involving three focus groups. They were conducted to identify the product attributes that were critical in influencing the consumers’ preferences and choices regarding Karoo lamb. In phase two, conjoint analysis was used to measure the importance that individual consumers attach to the various product attributes and their denominations, and the utility they then attach to it based on their valuation of the product as a whole. Price, as an extrinsic attribute, was identified as the most important factor in the decision-making process of consumers when purchasing lamb. Safety and quality were also relatively important, although, of the two, food safety was clearly the more important consideration. This is not surprising given the legacy of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad-cow disease, and Escherichia coli outbreaks that, in the past, received considerable publicity, especially in the press. The attribute ‘origin’ was rated as of the lowest importance. Traceability can be meaningful to consumers although in an indirect manner. The importance of traceability to consumers is mostly in terms of its benefits such as providing information on safety and quality, in relation to aspects that they think are important regarding food in general. In terms of meat especially, there is a need for fast and reliable traceability systems along the full supply chain. From origin to the user, the end consumer, provision of safe and high-quality food is imperative.