delware environmental institute

Center for Applied Economics and Statistics conducts study of consumers' oyster preferences

With oyster production in the Delaware Bay having decreased by about 90 percent when compared to historical levels, there is a need to understand consumer preferences with regard to local versus non-local oysters and how to best market the product in order for the industry to rebound. A comeback is important because scientists believe that a healthy bay oyster population will offer important ecological benefits, including habitat creation and water filtration.

Researchers at the University of Delaware recently spent two weekends at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal studying consumer and tourist preferences with regard to local versus non-local oysters — and also examining ways to define “local” oysters — to see if people are more willing to pay for those oysters.

The research is led by Kent Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment, director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) and co-director of the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and Tongzhe Li, a postdoctoral researcher with the center in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC).

The study was funded in part by the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) and is being run through CEAE, which Li said has a history of conducting oyster research largely because of the environmental benefits they provide.