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Researchers find consumers prefer local oysters

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People are willing to pay more for local oysters, according to a study by University of Delaware researchers who spent two weekends at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal and some time at the Division of Motor Vehicles studying consumer and tourist preferences.

With oyster production in the Delaware Bay decreased by about 90 percent  compared to historic levels, the researchers wanted to  understand consumer preferences and how to best market the product so that the industry can rebound in Delaware.

A comeback is important because scientists believe that a healthy bay oyster population will offer important ecological benefits, including habitat creation and water filtration.

The study was funded in part by the Delaware Economic Development Office  and is being run through the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE).

“In the Delaware Bay area, oyster production has declined since the 1930s. Government and the oyster industry are making efforts to restore the oyster population. Researchers at CEAE are studying consumer preferences for oysters in order to help promote local oyster consumption,” said researcher Tongzhe Li.  “Oysters are a food product that also provide ecosystem services. Developing a robust oyster industry is fruitful for Delaware’s economy and the environment.”

The researchers said they surveyed 750 people to determine if tourists preferred local to non-local oysters and then to see if the tourists’ opinions differed from that of local residents. To gauge the oyster preferences of northern Delawareans, the researchers also spent time at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Wilmington.
Researchers haven’t determined all the results, but they have determined people prefer local oysters to non-local.

“People are willing to pay more for local oysters compared to non-local oysters, as expected,” said Li.

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