Can you taste sustainability?: Connecting product source and soil health to organoleptic performance




de Jongh, Alexa

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Taste and price tend to have a greater influence on food choices than extrinsic motivations such as nutrition and environmental performance. The connection between the taste of agricultural products and production methods has proven difficult in past research due to farming practices being treated as factors in such experiments without the use of specific farm operations or environmental conditions. Therefore, if consumers prefer the organoleptic properties of more ecologically friendly products, then consumer self-interest can be utilized to drive the market towards more eco-friendly food production methods. To explore this, I asked the question: do farm type, physio-chemical attributes, and/or soil health parameters and fertilization methods affect the organoleptic properties of different agricultural products? The first chapter examined if different farm types with different operations and localities influence the organoleptic perception of four different products (cherry tomato, table tomatoes, lettuce, and garlic) using three different farm types (small, local, large, local, and conventional). The second chapter assessed if fertilization method and soil health indicators influenced the organoleptic properties of three products (kale, carrots, and string beans) of two different fertilizer treatments (synthetic and compost) from a restoration agriculture project. The first chapter indicated that the more ecologically friendly farms had the more preferred products. The second experiment indicated that in an immature production system, the type of fertilizer used did not have a significant effect on the organoleptic properties of the products. Carrots were the only product where an effect was found, as the synthetic fertilized carrots were more preferred than the compost treatment. However, in neither case were the participants willing to pay a premium price for the more preferred products. Therefore, consumers can discriminate superior products but are not willing to pay a higher price for them. Self-interest (i.e. better-tasting products) has the potential to affect market share in favor of environment-responsive producers.



food, organoleptic, soil health, taste, food system, consumer behavior