, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 121-136
Date: 08 Feb 2007

Consumer perception versus scientific evidence of farmed and wild fish: exploratory insights from Belgium

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The increasing number of marketable fish being supplied from aquaculture is a response to the increasing demand for healthy food and is filling the gap left by depleting natural fish stocks. Little is known about the awareness and perception of the consumer in terms of farmed fish versus fish from capture fisheries. The consumer's subjective point of view is of overriding importance for the production system and product acceptance as well as for future market success. In this paper consumer perception in Belgium is explored and compared against scientific evidence of farmed versus wild fish. Primary data were collected through a consumer survey (April 2003) and focus group discussions (May 2004) with Belgian consumers. The majority of the consumer sample reported no perceived differences between farmed versus wild fish. However, mean perception scores were slightly in favour of wild fish on the attributes taste, health and nutritious value, in particular among consumers aged 55 years and older. The availability of farmed fish was perceived to be better than that of wild fish, while the consumer's perception of safety did not differ between farmed and wild fish. The focus group discussions indicated that consumers’ opinions and beliefs about farmed fish are mainly based on emotion and image transfer from intensive terrestrial livestock production rather than on awareness and factual knowledge of aquaculture.