Public perceptions of antibiotic use on dairy farms in the United States
Journal of Dairy Science
There has been a global push for improved antimicrobial stewardship, including in animal agriculture, due to growing concerns about antimicrobial resistance. However, little is known about the general public's perceptions of antimicrobial use in animal agriculture. The aim of this study was to explore the US public's perceptions of antibiotic use in dairy farming and how these perceptions influence purchasing decisions. Data from the 2017 Cornell National Social Survey developed in
... ped in collaboration with the Cornell Survey Research Institute were used to assess the public's perceptions. The Survey Research Institute of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) administered the survey by telephone to a random sample of 1,000 adults in the continental United States. The survey collected information about perceptions of threat to human health posed by antibiotic use in cows on dairy farms and willingness to pay more for milk from cows raised without antibiotics, as well as several presumed explanatory variables, including respondents' knowledge of antibiotics, beliefs regarding cattle treatment in dairy farming, and 18 sociodemographic characteristics. Data were analyzed using logistic regression. Among respondents, 90.7% (n = 892/983) reported that antibiotic use on dairy farms posed some level of threat to human health and 71.5% (n = 580/811) indicated they would be willing to pay more for milk produced from cows raised without antibiotics. Respondents who believed that antibiotic use in dairy farming posed a moderate to high threat to human health were more likely to be female and report willingness to pay more for milk or not purchase milk. Additionally, consumers' willingness to pay more for milk from cattle raised without antibiotics was associated with the belief that antibiotic use posed some threat to human health, the belief that cows are treated better on organic dairy farms, an annual household income of $50,000 or greater, being born outside the United States, having a liberal social ideology, and being currently or formerly married. These results suggest that the general public's decisions as consumers of dairy products are associated with demographic factors in addition to perceptions of antibiotic use and cattle treatment in dairy farming. The rationale behind such perceptions should be further explored to facilitate consumers' informed decision making about antibiotic use in agriculture, links to cattle treatment, and associated willingness-to-pay attitudes.