Blog: Make your mind up time

Catherine Sleep | 11 May 2004

I spent an hour yesterday afternoon being quizzed by food industry analysts working with the agriculture division of the Department of Primary Industries at the State Government of Victoria, Australia. They are travelling around the world trying to gauge the likely future global demand for food attributes such as safe, green, clean, kind and ethical, presumably to ascertain how best producers and processors in Victoria can sell their food to different markets.

To do this they are administering structured interviews with representatives from a range of organisations including retailers, NGOs, governments, importers and the odd person who doesn’t really fit into any other category like yours truly. They’re conducting a great number of interviews so it was important that their findings were in some way quantifiable – this meant reducing some very complex issues to a number between one and five. Tricky business. For instance, how important is the issue of pesticides to UK consumers? Or chemical residues? To some, it’s of absolutely no interest whatsoever, while a small number of people think of little else. And somewhere in the middle are the rest of us.

I found myself wanting to expand on just about every response. I must have been the nightmare interviewee – responding to every question with a five minute consideration of the issue from different angles, reformulating, rephrasing, repeating and doubtless contradicting myself before eventually coming to a landing that made some kind of sense. Hopefully. And all the poor things wanted was a number in a box.

Department of Primary Industries


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