John Cranfield

John Cranfield’s fascination with the factors that drive consumer food choices led him to pursue a master’s and PhD degree in agricultural economics; he studied consumer demand and behaviour as well as factors of consumer choices, such as advertising and industry structure. In 2001 John returned to the University of Guelph as a faculty member after working for the University of Manitoba for two years. John served as Chair of FARE between 2014 and 2018, and now serves as Associate Dean for External Relations in the Ontario Agricultural College. John believes it is important to have an appreciation for the work involved in agriculture, especially what it takes to grow crops and raise livestock. In addition to his academic work, his own appreciation for agriculture stems his attempts to manage a large vegetable garden during the summer.

Academic History

  • B.Sc. in Agriculture, University of Guelph (1993)
  • M.Sc. in Agricultural Economics, University of Guelph (1995)
  • Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics, Purdue University (1999)

Affiliations and Partnership

  • Fellow, Institute for the Advanced Study of Food and Agricultural Policy, University of Guelph
  • Presidential Cycle, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society, 2011-2014
  • Associate Editor, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2010-2013 
  • Editorial Board, Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics: August 2004-August 2012

Awards and Honours

  • APEX Award, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University, 2014
  • OAC Distinguish Researcher Award, University of Guelph 2013
  • Presidential Distinguished Professor Award, University of Guelph, 2004-2006

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Professor & Associate Dean (External Relations)

(519) 824-4120 Ext. 53708
Johnston Hall, Room 163

Research Impact

John is a noted expert on the economics of food and has been featured in over 70 television, radio and newspaper interviews. His research focuses on the economics of consumer behaviour and demand analysis at the individual, household and market level, innovation in the agri-food and biotechnology sectors, and economic history. An important aspect of his research involves understanding the factors that drive what people buy and consume, such as the influence of advertising programs. To this end, he has worked closely with commodity groups to determine the returns for generic advertising programs. The data from John’s research is often used to inform decisions in public policy and private strategy. Over the course of his career, his analysis of consumer choices and preferences has transitioned from a perspective of prices and income to involving more sophisticated models and the consideration of non-economic factors.

Current Research

Why do people put the food they do into a grocery cart, on a plate, or in their mouth?

This area of research is John’s primary focus. He looks to understand the factors that drive consumer choice; in particular, he studies developing trends and patterns in consumer preference. For example, one of his current interests is the demand for food products differentiated by animal welfare characteristics. In one section of this ongoing research effort, two different experiments and information treatments were used to expose consumers to positive and negative consequences associated with alternative housing for laying hens; when consumers understood the negative consequences, their valuation of the eggs from those housing systems decreased. Other initiatives in this area study local and organic food data. His research looks at the role of distance from origin of production, and how the degree of “organic-ness” (i.e. conventional organic, certified organic) influences consumer choices. Much of this work has been supported through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs-UG Partnership, as well as the Poultry Industry Council.

How does the structure of markets influence market outcomes?

This area of John’s research looks at industrial organization and its influence on prices observed in either the inputs or outputs of agriculture. Currently, he is working with other department faculty members and OMAFRA to develop a greater understanding of the structure of the Ontario food processing industry. Data gathered from this initiative will help determine how big the industry is across different sectors. Specifically, John is interested in the factors that drive capital investment and labour demands; as the agriculture and food processing industries become more technologically sophisticated, demands have shifted more toward high-skilled labour. Overall, the project looks to understand investment, competitiveness, employment and productivity in Ontario’s food manufacturing sector, and how this combined structure influences market outcomes.

What are the returns to levy-based financing efforts by commodity organizations?

When a producer sells a unit of milk or a food animal, they often pay a levy based on the sale to a national or provincial agency. This money is directed toward initiatives to expand the market, such as advertising and promotion or agricultural research that reduces the cost of production. John’s research in this area looks to understand whether these levy-based financing efforts expand the market and generate a positive return to agricultural producers. One study, funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency, found that beef check-off funds generated a positive return to Canadian beef producers, with particularly strong returns arising from investment in beef-cattle related research activities.

Graduate Student Information

John views the training of the next generation as a very important aspect of his work. To that end, he always includes graduate students in his funded research projects. John believes the process of a student obtaining a graduate degree involves the discovery of his or her own work style and the development of the maturity needed to be an effective researcher. For this reason, he allows his students a great degree of independence in their work and thinking while remaining available as an advisor and mentor when challenges arise. The department prides itself on building collaborative and collegial relationships with graduate students, allowing partnerships to develop in the shared effort toward new discoveries.

Past graduate students have worked on projects involving topics such as: food consumption patterns across different ethnic groups; consumer preference for local and organic food; impacts of the listeria recall on Maple Leaf Foods; and perception of food quality by consumers in Canada.

John’s graduate students have gone on to employment in the public sector, such as OMAFRA and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the private sector, such as Loblaws where one student is now an analyst for their loyalty program, and in academia as faculty.

Featured Publications

  1. John Cranfield. 2018. “Will consumers pay for voluntary testing for BSE? Double-bound CVM evidence from Canada.” Journal of Food Products Marketing 24(6): 697-723 .
  2. John Cranfield, B. James Deaton, and Shreenivas Shellikeri.  2009. “Evaluating Consumer Preferences for Organic Food Production Standards.” Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics 57(1): 99-117.
  3. John Cranfield.  2002. “Optimal Advertising with Traded Raw and Final Goods: The Case of Variable Proportions Technology.” Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 27 (1): 204-221.
  4. J. A. L. Cranfield, James Eales, Thomas Hertel and Paul Preckel.  2003. “Model Selection when Estimating and Predicting Consumer Demands using International, Cross Section Data.” Empirical Economics 28 (2): 353-364.
  5. John Cranfield, Thomas Hertel, James Eales, and Paul Preckel.  1998. “Changes in the Structure of Global Food Demand.”  American Journal of Agricultural Economics 80 (5):1042-1050.

For a full list of John’s publications, visit his Google Scholar page.

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