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The Consumer Costs of Food Certification: A Pilot Study and Research Opportunities

2019, Journal of Consumer Affairs, with Adrienne Cachelin

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Certification labels have become a ubiquitous feature on food products across grocery store shelves. Although it is widely acknowledged that certified products often garner higher prices than their noncertified competition, less is known regarding what those price differences are based on, and what the personal, political, or ethical implications are for consumers. This research note argues for greater attention to the implications of certified food prices—which we conceptualize as the “consumer costs” of food certification. The paper discusses the theoretical linkages between food certifications and prices, and outlines the resulting consumer costs of which we are concerned. Through a pilot study in Salt Lake City, Utah, we investigate prices found on certified grocery store rice, and consider the causes and implications of the consumer costs of food certification.

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