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    Does the news you see affect the beef you buy? Student research examines media impact on purchasing habits

    Posted 2 March 2022

    A young woman – Holly Bowness – in front of a model cow in the Harper Adams Food Academy.

    The impact of news headlines on shoppers’ beef purchases is being examined by a Harper Adams University student for her Honours Research project.

    Holly Bowness, a final year BSc (Hons) Business Management with Marketing student from near Cockermouth in Cumbria, is asking members of the public to fill in a short questionnaire about the kind of news stories they have seen about the UK beef industry, their perceptions of the industry – and their shopping habits when it comes to buying beef products.

    A link to her survey can be found here.

    The survey forms part of Holly’s research project, titled: ‘It’s not the Cow, It’s the How’: To what extent does the news media influence consumers beef purchasing habits in the UK, with a particular focus on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

    The project seeks to discover the influence news headlines can have on shoppers’ behaviour.

    Inspired by her family’s background in agriculture and her placement year experience at Eastbrook Farm Organic Meats, the home of Helen Browning Organics, Holly was passionate about performing research into the effects of the news media on the UK beef industry.

    She said: “On placement, I started to learn more about regenerative beef systems in the UK – so when it came to my research project this year, I couldn’t wait to find out more!

    “I kept seeing lots of negative headlines about the UK beef industry in the news, and I thought ‘I don’t really agree with that!’ I wanted to know how far those news stories influence consumers and the beef products they choose to buy.”

    Holly’s survey – which is open until March 7 – has already been filled in by more than 400 respondents, but she is keen to get a broad demographic range of responses to help with her research. Survey respondents also have the option to opt in to indicate their interest in further research, which Holly hopes to carry out through short-form interviews.

    Holly has already presented her proposed research to fellow students at Harper Adams as part of the University’s inaugural Food and Business research mini-conference. She hosted a session examining the thinking behind her project, what she hopes to discover about the public perceptions of an industry whose supply chain contributes around £2.8 billion to the UK economy – and her belief that ‘you can still eat meat and help to save the planet!’

    She said: “I’m hoping to see through the research how, for instance, the news headlines affects whether consumers choose to purchase beef products from British regenerative agricultural systems or will consumers avoid eating beef products all together.”

    “The survey is open to anyone in the UK who is over 18, whatever their views on the industry – so I am interested in hearing from people with all kinds of dietary preferences.”

    As she prepares for her final year of study at Harper Adams, Holly is looking back fondly at her time at the University – and forward to whatever comes next.

    She added: “Someone in my young farmers club had been to Harper Adams - and then, when I came to visit with my dad, I loved it – and he did too!

    “The campus was lovely, in a rural location, and it had a nice friendly feeling to it.

    “Lots of people from our course are now going on to do all kinds of different things, which I like – and the lecturers are really good, too!”

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