Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Agricultural Economics

First Advisor

Nicole J. Olynk Widmar

Committee Chair

Nicole J. Olynk Widmar

Committee Member 1

Candace C. Croney

Committee Member 2

Michael D. Wilcox


Corporations are prioritizing corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by investing in and actively promoting their social practices. In the U.S. of the modern food supply chain creates a unique challenge for corporations to address concerns about social issues of consumers and non-consumers alike. This study is motivated by the need to better understand individuals’ perceptions of CSR as it pertains to the food supply chain. In April 2015 an online survey collected information from 1,201 U.S. residents with the objective of investigating individuals’ perceptions of relative importance of eight prominent CSR areas relevant to food and agriculture. Demographic, household consumption, and personal practices related to social issues were collected. Each respondent also completed best-worst tasks designed to elicit relative importance of each of the CSR areas by U.S. residents. This study found that for the sample as a whole, health and safety was perceived (relative to all other areas studied) as the most important CSR area, and environment was prioritized second. Reporting gender as female and/or age over 65 years of age, was positively correlated with the relative importance placed on health and safety, but negatively correlated with the size of preference share for nearly all other CSR areas investigated. Membership in the younger age categories was positively correlated with the size of the preference share devoted to procurement, labor, fair trade, and biotechnology. In addition the relationships between respondent perceptions of importance of CSR areas and relative social responsibility in supermarkets, fast food, and animal welfare groups were investigated. A clearer understanding of U.S. resident’s perceptions of importance of CSR areas relevant in the U.S. food and agricultural supply chain is a vital step toward improving food corporations’ social practices to meet individuals’ expectations.