A qualitative study through consumers’ focus groups was performed in Finland, France and Spain to study perception of consumers about farmed fish. Consumption habits, information they receive on fish farming, and their needs for receiving explicit information about aquaculture were assessed. The study also tested the reactions of consumers after receiving a set of basic information, in eight slides, about world aquaculture and salmon farming. The study will be continued with a large-scale consumer survey in the three countries.
The criteria “wild – farmed” is not important for all consumers, other criteria as price play a role
Unsurprisingly, the consumed fish species and their presentation vary among the three countries, but showed no contradiction compared to the results of previous surveys. Salmon is consumed in the three countries and indeed that facilitates the comparison across countries in our study. The answers show that in the three countries, some people choose strictly wild fish, because they prefer their taste or because they reject farmed fish, while others buy both wild and farmed fish, some without paying attention to the production mode. Many other criteria than ‘wild’ or ‘farmed’ have been quoted as playing a role in the buying act, notably price is important.
Information about fish farming comes from various sources
Information received today by consumers about fish farming is considered scarce but it is not actively searched either. The main topics that rise questions in the three countries are feed content and use of antibiotics and drugs, to a lesser extent fish welfare, and pollutants. For aquaculture, we noticed some common features with general trends about perception of agriculture production.
Information received today by consumers about fish farming is considered scarce but not actively searched (in France, and by some participants in Finland and Spain), while considered abundant by some others, in Finland and Spain. Many sources of information are quoted, from the vendor to mass media, notably TV reports being mentioned as especially important in France but bringing mainly negative information, while in Finland the contents of TV reports and social media are questioned.
Well-timed and structured information might increase awareness
Consumers expressed doubts and questions about fish farming, mostly in France, also in Finland, less in Spain where fish farming is perceived more positively. The main topics being questioned in the three countries are feed content and use of antibiotics and drugs, to a lesser extent fish welfare, while concerns are expressed about pollutants. After being shown basic information on aquaculture in eight slides, the consumers were mostly satisfied, but in France they claimed for more detailed information.
For future communication, in all countries there is a real interest for receiving more information on aquaculture, on a wide range of topics from farming conditions to regulation and fish health, and through many suggested channels. Credibility of information sources was discussed, without showing unanimous preferences for some sources. Some consumers in France and Spain mention that certification of farmed fish may bring overall reassurance and may reduce the need to search information from multiple sources.
Beyond the information needs, there are some ethical concerns expressed by some consumers, especially in France, about intensive fish farming. In the three countries, consumers made references to other sectors of animal production (cattle, poultry, pigs), and we noticed some common features with general trends about perception of agriculture production and food consumption.
Text: Catherine Mariojouls, Terhi Latvala, Rafael Gines & Laurent Muller