A new study provides further understanding into the tides of public opinion around Canadian food, how it’s grown and the relationship consumers want with farmers and those that process their food. 

The study, “Public Opinion: a study of Canadian conversations online on food and farming,” led by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), Canada, uncovered how food, farming and a handful of hot button issues capture national interest in millions of natural conversations online. The issues Canadians are most engaged with include climate change and the links to food production, organic foods and discussions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“This groundbreaking work captured and quantified actual discussion and real sentiment of over 254,000 Canadians talking about food and how it’s grown,” says Crystal Mackay, president. “This kind of research is integral to truly addressing consumer demands and questions in an open and authentic manner.”

Key conversations Canadians discussed online over the 2-year period included: 

  • 8 million people discussed cannabis.
  • 2.5 million people discussed climate change as it relates to food production.
  • 2.1 million people discussed genetically modified foods (GMOs).
  • 2 million people discussed organic food and farming.


For the most part, Millennials and boomers were found to be similarly aligned in their views on food issues based on their online conversations. This is not the case in CCFI’s more traditional quantitative research where age is a significant segment divider when people are asked questions to answer. 

The study also identified opportunities for players in the Canadian food system to join the conversations around key topics such as cost of food and climate change. For example, almost half of the 2 million conversations around GMOs over the 2-year span happened in November 2018. 

The topics researched within the study covered farm practices and food production in general, and timely issues, including GMOs, hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Canadians most commonly associated farmers with all the key topics studied; more so than any other food system stakeholders. For example, when it came to antibiotics, 55% associated farmers with this topic, followed by scientists at 23%, restaurants at 5% and food companies at only 1%.  

The CCFI study measured the discussions related to food and farming of 254,900 Canadians for 24 months on social media, from January 2017 to January 2019. The study assessed many social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Reddit using a proprietary artificial intelligence tool to analyze public social media, with no personalized data attached to the findings.