More food knowledge needed

The West Australian

The owner of a renowned free range egg company believes all links in the agricultural food chain, including retailers, need a greater understanding of how food is produced by farmers.

Nuffield scholar Kate Mason and husband Reece produce free range eggs in Kojonup under the brand Katie Joy's.

Ms Mason said retailers and consumers could no longer afford to ignore the producer.

"Retailers need to understand that even though supply of a product might increase, such as an influx of eggs onto the market, our costs as producers remain the same," she said.

"In the end, the consumer wants to have that clear conscience, to know the food has been produced in a sustainable way, but they also want it as cheap as possible."

She said there was also a requirement for farmers to be better educated about the needs and wants of the consumer.

Ms Mason toured Europe, the US and UK, studying ways farm businesses could interact with consumers.

She said a farm in Indiana opened the doors of its operation to consumers, allowing them to see a raw account of how livestock was farmed, with 570,000 visitors through the business annually.

In the Netherlands, Ms Mason visited a furnished barn egg production business that she said was commanding a higher price for its product than free range farms.

The business was also employing innovative ways to market its product to the consumer, she said.

"This company is now selling their eggs in a round carton, with seven eggs, so it's very difficult to compare prices with other brands, which is quite innovative," she said.

"In Europe there is definitely a move towards a 'you want it, we grow it' attitude."

Ms Mason said while many WA farmers were producers of bulk commodities, such as grains, there was still a requirement to connect with the consumer and the retailer.

"The domestic market is a shopfront to the agricultural industry and consumer opinion flows through to the decision makers," she said.

"We know we are at the expense of the supermarkets … we don't necessarily need to change what we do, we just need to change perception."

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails