Skip to main content

Consumer preferences for ‘natural’ agricultural practices: Assessing methods to manage bird pests

  • Zachary Herrnstadt (a1), Philip H. Howard (a1), Chi-Ok Oh (a2) and Catherine A. Lindell (a3)

‘Natural’ is a popular food marketing term. Although it is not well-defined, it refers primarily to inputs used for food processing, rather than agricultural practices. Given the market success of organic and non-GMO labeled foods, other agricultural practices may have the potential to develop ‘natural’ market niches while also addressing sustainability goals. We assessed perceptions of natural for one specific set of agricultural practices, bird management methods in fruit crops, utilizing a series of four focus groups. In addition, we quantified consumer preferences for these methods with a national online survey (n = 1000). The most positively received methods, falconry and nest boxes, were typically described as more natural. Conversely, the most negatively received methods, live ammunition and methyl anthranilate spray, were frequently viewed as less natural. The majority of survey respondents indicated that controlling fruit-consuming birds with natural practices was important, but an even higher percentage deemed avoiding harms to personal health as important. Because falconry and nest boxes do not have perceived direct effects on human health, they are likely to have less market potential than more established ecolabels. Communicating the use of these practices to consumers, however, may result in consumers selecting them over other products, particularly if the associated price premiums are relatively modest.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author:
Hide All
1 Howard, P.H. and Allen, P. 2008. Consumer willingness to pay for domestic ‘fair trade’: Evidence from the United States. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 23(3):235242.
2 Oberholtzer, L., Dimitri, C., and Jaenicke, E.C. 2013. International trade of organic food: Evidence of US imports. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 28(3):255262.
3 Natural Foods Merchandiser. 2012. NFM market overview 2012: Natural stays on perennial path to growth. Available at Web site (verified 12 November 2014).
4 Whole Foods Market Inc. 2014. Unacceptable ingredients for food. Available at Web site (verified 12 November 2014).
5 U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration. 2015. What is the meaning of ‘natural’ on the label of food? Available at Web site (verified 1 September 2015).
6 Lin, B-H., Smith, T.A., and Huang, C.L. 2010. Organic premiums of US fresh produce. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 23(3):208216.
7 Lindell, C.A., Schwiff, S.A., and Howard, P.H. 2012. Bird management in fruit crops: How we make progress. In R.M. Timm (ed.). Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, CA. p. 235239.
8 Curtis, P.D., Merwin, I.A., Pritts, M.P., and Peterson, D.V. 1994. Chemical repellents and plastic netting for reducing bird damage to sweet cherries, blueberries, and grapes. HortScience 29(10):11511155.
9 Tobin, M.E., Dolbeer, R.A., Webster, C.M., and Seamans, T.W. 1991. Cultivar differences in bird damage to cherries. Wildlife Society Bulletin 19(2):190194.
10 Tracey, J. and Saunders, G.R. 2010. A technique to estimate bird damage in wine grapes. Crop Protection 29(5):435439.
11 Anderson, A., Lindell, C.A., Moxcey, K.M., Siemer, W.F., Linz, G.M., Curtis, P.D., Carroll, J.E., Burrows, C.L., Boulanger, J.R., Steensma, K.M.M., and Shwiff, S.A. 2013. Bird damage to select fruit crops: The cost of damage and the benefits of control in five states. Crop Protection 52:103109.
12 Lindell, C.A., Eaton, R.A., Lizotte, E.M., and Rothwell, N.L. 2012. Bird consumption of sweet and tart cherries. Human-Wildlife Interactions 6(2):283290.
13 Cook, A., Rushton, S., Allan, J., and Baxter, A. 2008. An evaluation of techniques to control problem bird species on landfill sites. Environmental Management 41(6):834843.
14 Summers, R.W. 1985. The effect of scarers on the presence of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in cherry orchards. Crop Protection 4(4):520528.
15 Belant, J.L. and Ickes, S.K. 1997. Mylar flags as gull deterrents. Great Plains Wildlife Damage Control Workshop Proceedings. Paper 359. Available at Web site
16 Bomford, M. and O'Brien, P.H. 1990. Sonic deterrents in animal damage control: A review of device tests and effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18(4):411422.
17 Sergio, F., Newton, I., Marchesi, L., and Pedrini, P. 2006. Ecologically justified charisma: Preservation of top predators delivers biodiversity conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology 43(1):10491055.
18 Carver, E. (2009). Birding in the United States: A demographic and economic analysis. Report 2006–4. US Fish & Wildlife Service, Arlington, VA.
19 Jedlicka, J.A., Greenberg, R., and Letourneau, D.K. 2011. Avian conservation practices strengthen ecosystem services in California vineyards. PLoS ONE 6(11):e27347.
20 Kross, S.M., Tylianakis, J.M., and Nelson, X.J. 2012. Effects of introducing threatened falcons into vineyards on abundance of passeriformes and bird damage to grapes. Conservation Biology 26(1):142149.
21 Smallwood, J.A. and Collopy, M.W. 2009. Southeastern American Kestrels respond to an increase in the availability of nest cavities in north-central Florida. Journal of Raptor Research 43(4):291300.
22 Paz, A., Jareno, D., Arroyo, L., Vinuela, J., Arroyo, B., Mougeot, F., Lugue-Larena, J.J., and Fargallo, J.A. 2013. Avian predators as a biological control system of common vole (Microtus arvalis) populations in northwestern Spain: Experimental set-up and preliminary results. Pest Management Science 69(3):444450.
23 Morgan, D.L. and Krueger, R.A. 1998. Focus Group Kit. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
24 Patton, M.Q. 2002. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, 3rd ed. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
25 Morgan, D.L. 1996. Focus groups. Annual Review of Sociology 22:129152.
26 Guest, G., Bunce, A., and Johnson, L. 2006. How many interviews are enough? An experiment with data saturation and variability. Field Methods 18(1):5982.
27 Nielsen. 2013. U.S. women control the purse strings. Available at Web site (verified 31 July 2013).
28 Oh, C., Herrnstadt, Z., and Howard, P.H. 2015. Consumer willingness to pay for bird management in fruit crops. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 39(7):782797.
29 Dillman, D.A., Smyth, J.D., and Christian, L.M. 2009. Internet, Mail and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.
30 Schoenherr, T., Ellram, L.M., and Tate, W.L. 2015. A note on the use of survey research firms to enable empirical data collection. Journal of Business Logistics 36(3):288300.
31 U.S. Census Bureau. 2011. American community survey. Available at Web site (verified 25 August 2013).
32 U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. Current population survey, 2012 annual social and economic supplement. Available at Web site (verified 25 August 2013).
33 U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. State and county QUICKFACTS. Available at Web site (verified 25 August 2013).
34 Harper, G.C. and Makatouni, A. 2002. Consumer perception of organic food production and farm animal welfare. British Food Journal 104(3/4/5):287299.
35 Howard, P. 2006. Central Coast consumers want more food-related information, from safety to ethics. California Agriculture 60(1):1419.
36 Fox, N. and Ward, K. 2008. Health, ethics and environment: A qualitative study of vegetarian motivations. Appetite 50(2–3):422429.
37 Bishop, R.C. and Heberlein, T.A. 1979. Measuring values of extramarket goods: Are indirect measures biased. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 61(1):926930.
38 Buzby, J.C., Fox, J.A., Ready, R.C., and Crutchfield, S.R. 1998. Measuring consumer benefits of food safety risk reductions. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 30(1):6982.
39 Vermeir, I. and Verbeke, W. 2006. Sustainable food consumption: Exploring the consumer “attitude–behavioral intention” gap. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 19(2):169194.
40 Pierson, D. 2013. Farmers using falcons to scare off crop-eating birds. Los Angeles Times. September 15. Available at Web site (verified 20 September 2013).
41 Szasz, A. 2007. Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed From Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.
42 Obach, B. 2015. Organic Struggle: The Movement for Sustainable Agriculture in the United States. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
  • ISSN: 1742-1705
  • EISSN: 1742-1713
  • URL: /core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed