Some British youth think milk comes from wheat.
Some British youth think milk comes from wheat.

A new report from Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) indicates that British youth have an astounding lack of knowledge when it comes to identifying where common foods such as butter and meat originate.

LEAF's online poll of 2,000 respondents between the ages of 16 and 23 was conducted in May of 2012.

In its report, LEAF notes that within this age group, less than half knew where butter came from, despite being presented with a range of picture options which included a dairy cow. A quarter of those questioned couldn’t even guess from which of the animals or crops pictured butter was produced, and one in 10 didn’t think it came from any of them. Eight percent believed butter came from beef cows.

Other disturbing findings included:

  • Four in ten young adults failed to link milk with the dairy cow image and 7% thought that it came from wheat.
  • A third of 16-23 year-olds didn’t know where eggs came from, with one in 10 believing that they came from wheat or maize.
  • Only half of this age group correctly identified that steak came from beef cattle with 12% thinking it came from wheat or maize.
  • More than a third also failed to connect pigs with bacon and over one in five thought jam or marmalade came from cereal crops.

In LEAF’s press release, Caroline Drummond, chief executive for LEAF, said: “We often hear reports that our food knowledge may be declining but this new research shows how bad the situation is becoming. Despite what they think, young adults are clearly becoming removed from where their food comes from. Three in10 adults born in the 1990s haven’t visited a farm in more than 10 years, if at all, which is a real shame as our farmers not only play an important role in food production but are passionate about engaging and reconnecting consumers, too.”

I cringe to think what a similar survey might show in the United States. I fear our youth might be as unknowledgeable – or maybe more? – than British youth.

Open Farm Sunday
So how do we address this? To foster a better understanding of food and agriculture, LEAF recently held its seventh “Open Farm Sunday” in the U.K. which is an event where farms of all types open their gates for consumers to visit and see where and how their food is produced. Since 2006 they’ve had thousands of consumers and hundreds of farms participate in this event to try to connect food, agriculture and consumers, and have had a great deal of success.

Is there a way we can provide similar experiences, information and education in this country? Whether it’s county-by-county, state-by-state or nationally, we need more high-profile or local events to impress upon consumers the important role agriculture plays in all of our lives.

For those in agriculture who are reading this, check out LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday 2011 report (the 2012 report is not yet out) to see what an impact their program is having. With these efforts, hopefully the next time the poll is done British youth will have some higher scores.

Live in KC? Learn more about your food
If you live in the Kansas City area, plan to attend SAFE FOOD in Overland Park, Kan., Monday June 25th at 7 p.m. (RSVP by June 22nd at 913-782-0235 or 913-294-5708). The event will be held at the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center, 119th & Lowell.

The evening will be a discussion on modern food production, discussing the myths about agriculture and feeding the world. This presentation, by Dan Thomson, DVM, PhD, Beef Cattle Institute, is designed for people to understand more about the agriculture community and how their food is produced on a daily basis.