Research

Peer Reviewed Publications

6. “Regulatory Landscape of the U.S. Aquaculture Supply Chain.” Forthcoming in Choices. Coauthors: Eric Abaidoo, Lauren N. Jescovitch, Dustin Chambers, Richard T. Melstrom, and Trey Malone.

While food regulations are often written to encourage ethical business practices; protect consumers, workers, and the environment; and promote animal welfare, they may hinder industry growth, prevent innovation, and generate higher consumer prices. address the relative changes in the aquaculture supply chain regulatory constraints over the past half-century. We use RegData and State RegData to examine regulatory restrictions across the U.S. aquaculture supply chain from 1970 to 2019. Upon presentation of recent trends, we discuss large-scale food policy initiatives and environmental regulations that may be driving the increase in aquaculture regulatory restrictions in recent years. In addition, we analyze heterogeneity across state protein supply chains using 2020 state-level RegData before concluding with a discussion of recent legislation pertaining to the future of the aquaculture industry.

5. “Regulatory Restrictions across U.S. protein supply chains.” Forthcoming in Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 1-27. Coauthors: Dustin Chambers, Richard (Max) T. Melstrom, and Trey Malone. link.

Food regulations protect consumer health, mitigate environmental concerns, and promote animal welfare, but they can also hinder innovation, limit entrepreneurship, and generate higher consumer prices. This paper combines estimates of regulatory restrictions from Mercatus Center’s RegData and State RegData databases with input-output modeling to assess restrictive regulatory language across various animal protein supply chains regulations across the supply chain. Our results suggest that protein supply chains have become subject to tens of thousands of federal regulatory constraints and that there is substantial heterogeneity in the number of state restrictions associated with animal production. Further research that examines changes in industry practices, market prices, or consumer preference after significant policy changes is needed to assess the economic consequences, or regulatory burden, of these regulatory restrictions across industries.

4. “How many regulations does it take to get a beer? The geography of beer regulations. Regulation & Governance. (2021). Coauthors: Dustin Chambers and Trey Malone. link.

While the influence of regulations on economic outcomes has been well-documented, fewer studies have focused on the economic geography of regulatory burdens. The regulations confronting any supply chain can vary dramatically across legislative jurisdictions, as U.S. policy is enforced by overlapping federal, state, and local governments. We use a unique dataset to explore state-by-state regulatory variation in U.S. beer supply chains in 2020. We find that the state-level rules targeted at the beer supply chain vary between 1,177 and 25,399, with the average state implementing 10,212 formal regulatory restrictions.

3. “Hopping on the localness craze: What brewers want from state-grown hops.” Managerial and Decision Economics, 42(2), 463-473 (2021). Coauthors: Trey Malone and Rob Sirrine. link.

Consumers habitually support local food and drink, but locally grown products often come from less developed value chains with lower quality control standards; something suppliers must consider. We use survey results from 50 Michigan craft breweries to determine what drives the decision to purchase local hops. A generalized linear model using a quasi-maximum likelihood estimator is employed to determine how perceived consistency, attitudes towards localness, and other factors impact hop purchasing decisions. The model indicates consistency of inputs is the leading driver of purchasing locally grown products, and beliefs about localness stimulating the economy or helping the environment is not enough to drive local purchasing.

2. “Consumer willingness to pay for sustainability attributes in beer: A choice experiment using eco-labels.” Agribusiness: An International Journal, 36(4), 591-612 (2020). Coauthors: Carson J. Reeling, Nicole J. Olynk Widmar, and Jayson L. Lusklink.

Commercial and regional brewers are increasingly investing in sustainability equipment that reduces input use, operating costs, and environmental impacts. These technologies often require prohibitively high upfront costs for microbreweries. One potential solution for these brewers is to market their product as sustainable and charge a premium to offset some of the costs. We undertake a stated preference choice experiment targeting a nationally representative sample of beer buyers and elicit preferences for multiple attributes related to sustainability in beer. We find that, on average, beer buyers are willing to pay $0.70/six-pack for beer produced using water and wastewater reduction technologies, $0.85 for carbon reduction practices, and $0.98 for landfill diversion practices, though water sustainability practices appeal to a largest share of beer buyers. We also find that preferences for sustainability attributes are widely distributed among beer drinkers, largely irrespective of sociodemographic characteristics. The positive price premiums across sustainability attributes suggest beer buyers value sustainable brewing, and brewers could attract new consumers by simultaneously communicating their commitment to sustainability and differentiating their product.

1. “A mixed methods approach to uncover common error patterns in student reasoning of supply and demand.” Journal of Economic Education, 51(3-4), 271-286 (2020). Coauthors: Supriya Sarnikar, Hillary Sackett-Taylor, Stephanie Brewer, and Jason Forgue. link.

Students of introductory economics are often able to predict changes in equilibrium price correctly on standardized assessments, but make consistent errors in predicting changes in equilibrium quantity. To examine the reasons for this pattern, we collected open-ended explanations written by students and categorized their reasoning using a rigorous multi-step qualitative method. Integrating the qualitative analysis with quantitative data, we find that students exhibit remarkable consistency in their reasoning errors. Common multiple choice assessments tend to reward some types of reasoning errors and thereby make it harder for students to acquire the correct reasoning method. We demonstrate that, with thoughtful consideration to avoid excessive subjectivity, a qualitative study can deepen our contextual understanding of the primarily quantitative assessment metrics utilized in economics education research.

In Review

“CBD and THC — Who buys it, and what for?” Coauthors: Brandon R. McFadden and Trey Malone.

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, industrialized hemp production, distribution, and  commerce became federally legal in the United States. While marijuana remains federally illegal, 16 U.S. jurisdictions have legalized recreational marijuana and 36 have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. The market for cannabis products, from both hemp and marijuana alike, is expanding, yet little is known about the attitudes, perceptions, and preferences of consumers.  We survey 981 U.S. households to better understand the market demand for cannabis-derived products, finding similarities between cannabis users and non-users on several aspects of cannabis knowledge and perceptions. But there are also pervasive differences between the two groups with respect to demographic characteristics and regulatory preferences. While this study provides initial market insight on consumer perceptions, attitudes, and regulatory preferences for cannabis products, future research is needed on an array of topics to fully comprehend the extent of the market.

“Cognitive load and consumer decision-making: Evidence from eye tracking retail experiments.” Coauthors: Bridget K. Behe, Patricia Huddleston, and Trey Malone.

While heuristic driven decision-making has been widely accepted across behavioral economics, cognitive load has largely remained outside the scope of the existing framework. We use two in-lab experiments and eye tracking technology to discuss how the cognitive load imposed by retail display architecture affects visual attention and choice. Participants in both experiments engaged in six choice tasks, were asked to indicate their most preferred alternative, and indicate their likelihood-to-buy that alternative. Choice tasks within and between experiments varied in size and layout. We found that as design complexity increases, participants take longer to make their decision, engage in common choice patterns, spend less time visually on their choice product, and ignore increasingly more of the display. Implications for retailers include reducing vertical merchandising, decreasing the number of products in a display, and diversifying the product mix in the display.

“Untapping terroir: Experimental evidence of regional variation in hop flavor profiles.” Coauthors: Rob Sirrine, Alex Adams, Alec Mull, Scott Stuhr, and Trey Malone.

Thanks in part to the push for localized supply chains, U.S. hop production is becoming more regionally diverse. Differentiation in geographies implies changes in growing climates and other environmental factors known to alter the flavor profiles of agricultural commodities used in food and drink. We use a chemical analysis, blind taste test, and choice experiment to identify whether the same hop cultivar grown in different regions induces a unique sensory profile in hops and beer. The chemical analysis and taste test provide evidence of hop terroir, while we find that brewers are willing to pay a premium for local hops.



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