As food markets have become more globalized, consumers have become more concerned
about the origin of the foods they eat as confidence in the quality and safety of foods produced
outside their local region or country has decreased.Traceability systems address these
concerns by accommodating the importance of establishing a link between the product, the
producer and the place of production, and these are gaining momentum in the food industry.
This paper describes the product attributes that could influence the decision-making
process of consumers towards purchasing a specific type of meat, namely Karoo lamb.
Karoo lamb is the product of specifically reared lambs in the Karoo region of South Africa
and has a distinctive taste. The information used in this paper was obtained in the first phase
of a research endeavour involving three focus groups. They were conducted to identify the
product attributes that were critical in influencing the consumers’ preferences and choices
regarding Karoo lamb. In phase two, conjoint analysis was used to measure the importance
that individual consumers attach to the various product attributes and their denominations,
and the utility they then attach to it based on their valuation of the product as a whole.
Price, as an extrinsic attribute, was identified as the most important factor in the
decision-making process of consumers when purchasing lamb. Safety and quality were
also relatively important, although, of the two, food safety was clearly the more important
consideration. This is not surprising given the legacy of bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
commonly known as mad-cow disease, and Escherichia coli outbreaks that, in the past,
received considerable publicity, especially in the press. The attribute ‘origin’ was rated as
of the lowest importance. Traceability can be meaningful to consumers although in an
indirect manner. The importance of traceability to consumers is mostly in terms of its
benefits such as providing information on safety and quality, in relation to aspects that they
think are important regarding food in general. In terms of meat especially, there is a need
for fast and reliable traceability systems along the full supply chain. From origin to the
user, the end consumer, provision of safe and high-quality food is imperative.