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Consumers will pay more for eco-friendly plants, study shows

People concerned with future consequences of their decisions will pay up to 16 cents more for eco-friendly plants, a new University of Florida study shows.

While 16 cents may not seem like much, researchers see any willingness to pay more to help the ornamental plants industry and the environment as good news.

Previous research has investigated the effects of perceived long-term consequences on people’s environmental behavior, including recycling or using public transportation. So UF food and resource economics assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan wanted to understand how differences in people’s perceptions of long- and short-term consequences affect plant preferences and purchase decisions.

For the study, 159 people bought plants at experimental auctions at Texas A&M University, the University of Minnesota and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario, Canada. The participants were recruited through Craigslist and community newsletters. Researchers studied differences in what’s called “consideration of future consequences” ─ the extent to which consumers consider potential outcomes of their actions ─ and how that affected their willingness to pay for edible and ornamental plants. Specifically, the study focused on their preferences for plant attributes related to sustainable production methods, container types and origin of production.

Eighty-eight of the 159 participants were deemed concerned about the consequences of their purchases. The study showed they were willing to pay up to 16 cents more for plants grown using energy-saving and sustainable production methods, sold in non-conventional containers as well as plants produced locally.

Some people recycle, exercise or diet, actions that take time to see results. Paying for long-term environmental conservation is a bit like working out or jogging, Khachatryan said.

“When you exercise, you don’t see the benefits right away,” he said.

Similarly, the benefits of pro-environmental production practices in the ornamental plants industry may not produce immediate impacts. Thus, consumers’ plant choices may depend on how much they consider future versus immediate consequences of their choices, said Khachatryan, a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences who conducts research at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

The price increase is relatively low, but even 16 cents can help retailers offset their costs, researchers said. Some larger retailers may go through thousands of plants in a short period, and that can add up quickly, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist, and study co-author.

A garden center or retailer may have a thin margin between production cost and the sales price, Campbell said. By adding 16 cents per plant ─ the amount some say they’re willing to pay for eco-friendly plants ─ the margin can increase considerably, he said. That makes garden centers and other retailers more profitable and, perhaps more sustainable. The study is published online in the current issue of the Journal of Environmental Horticulture.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The original article was written by Brad Buck. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Stem cells as future source for eco-friendly meat

The scientific progress that has made it possible to dream of a future in which faulty organs could be regrown from stem cells also holds potential as an ethical and greener source for meat. So say scientists who suggest in the Cell Press journal Trends in Biotechnology that every town or village could one day have its very own small-scale, cultured meat factory.

“We believe that cultured meat is part of the future,” said Cor van der Weele of Wageningen University in The Netherlands. “Other parts of the future are partly substituting meat with vegetarian products, keeping fewer animals in better circumstances, perhaps eating insects, etc. This discussion is certainly part of the future in that it is part of the search for a ‘protein transition.’ It is highly effective in stimulating a growing awareness and discussion of the problems of meat production and consumption.”

van der Weele and coauthor Johannes Tramper point out that the rising demand for meat around the world is unsustainable in terms of environmental pollution and energy consumption, not to mention the animal suffering associated with factory farming.

van der Weele said she first heard about cultured meat in 2004, when frog steaks were served at a French museum while the donor frog watched on ( Tramper has studied the cultivation of animal cells—insect cells mostly—in the lab for almost 30 years. In 2007, he published a paper suggesting that insect cells might be useful as a food source.

It is already possible to make meat from stem cells. To prove it, Mark Post, a professor of tissue engineering at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, presented the first lab-grown hamburger in 2013.

In the new Science & Society paper, van der Weele and Tramper outline a potential meat manufacturing process, starting with a vial of cells taken from a cell bank and ending with a pressed cake of minced meat. But there will be challenges when it comes to maintaining a continuous stem cell line and producing cultured meat that’s cheaper than meat obtained in the usual way. Most likely, the price of “normal” meat would first have to rise considerably.

Still, the promise is too great to ignore.

“Cultured meat has great moral promise,” write van der Weele and Tramper. “Worries about its unnaturalness might be met through small-scale production methods that allow close contact with cell-donor animals, thereby reversing feelings of alienation. From a technological perspective, ‘village-scale’ production is also a promising option.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Eco-friendly ProduceShield extends shelf life, reduces pathogens

A new product rolled out in October has been shown to beat back spoilage organisms and extend shelf-life for fresh produce as well as offer a sustainable pathogen-fighting wash that outperforms chlorine or acid-based alternatives, according to developer CMS Technology.

The Danbury, CT-based firm developed ProduceShield after a team of scientists worked more than six years developing an environmentally friendly, FDA-certified as Generally Recognized as Safe product that can respond to the growing instances of foodborne outbreaks, Harley Langberg, operations director for CMS Technology, told The Produce News.

It relies on a positively charged, cationic carrier technology that remains stable in cold and hot temperatures and can be used in wide-ranging environments, said Langberg.

And unlike other washes, ProduceShield does not have to be rinsed after application, and companies tell CMS that they’re looking for alternatives to chlorine and acid-based products because there’s concern bacteria are becoming resistant to these technologies or can reappear after the product is rinsed off, according to Langberg.

Firms that have been using chlorine for more than 20 years are beginning to look for alternatives, especially as new federal food-safety regulations are coming down the pike from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, said Langberg, adding that the product is an effective weapon against E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria.

“We’ve shown we’re better than anything out there,” said Langberg, pointing to the product’s success in killing off spoilage bacteria and extending shelf life for commodities like leafy greens, butternut squash and strawberries.

The firm is focusing marketing efforts on three links in the food supply chain: supermarkets, universities and schools, and farm and processors.

Langberg said ProduceShield can be used on the farm as part of its post-harvest spray before product is sent to processors or supermarkets. In supermarkets, it can be applied to protect against spoilage and bacteria from the handling of produce. Some supermarkets just use water or a citrus wash.

The new product also has tremendous benefit in schools and universities.

“They want something that protects against spoilage and protects the children,” Langberg said.

Georgia-based Kennesaw State University has successfully integrated ProduceShield into its food program that serves 7,000 meals a day. Known as a leader in food safety and sustainability efforts, the school was recognized last year by the National Restaurant Association with its Innovator of the Year Award.

The university found produce washed with ProduceShield lasts two to three weeks longer than if the fruits and vegetables were washed in water, which is a huge benefit for a school that manages its own farm, greenhouse and apple orchards.

“As food safety is at the forefront of our program, we appreciate not only the preservation qualities of your product but the eco-friendly component that ties in to our sustainability initiatives,” Gary Coltek, senior director of Kennesaw’s culinary and hospitality services, wrote in a testimonial about the product.

In the meantime, the company has contracted with a food-safety research institute to conduct further tests on its new technology, and it plans to ramp up marketing in the retail sector and extend the marketing reach to seafood, poultry and plastics.

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