UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Norbert Wilson, Tufts University

Food Waste, Date Labels, and Risk Preferences: An Experimental Exploration

Date and Location

Thursday, October 10, 2019, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
ARE Library Conference Room, 4101 Social Sciences and Humanities


With an experimental auction, this paper provides evidence that consumers adjust their food waste behavior by date labels. In the auction, participants provided a willingness to pay and expected consumption for spaghetti sauce and packaged deli meat. The experiment had a control condition of no date label and two date label treatments: “Best by” and “Use by.” Participants revealed their preferences in terms of loss aversion and risk aversion via a series of binding gambles. For the willingness to pay, both date labels lowered the valuations of participants of deli meat, but the date labels did not affect spaghetti sauce. For the premeditated waste, the date labels had differential effects: increasing the premeditated waste for deli meat with “Use by” and lowering the premeditated waste for spaghetti sauce with “Use by.” The “Best by” caused less premeditated waste than the “Use by Label” for both products. However, the lowered premeditated waste is no different from the no date label condition. The statistically significant coefficients of the date label and loss aversion parameter interactions suggest heterogeneity in response to the date labels. As suggested by the differential response to date labels readily seen on foods, these results confirm that consumers experience confusion about the meaning of date labels. However, changing date labels may not lower food waste relative to no
label at all.

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