Shocking numbers of young adults have no idea of the origins of basic foods, with fewer than half knowing that butter comes from dairy cows.
A quarter of 16 to 24-year-olds were so clueless that they could not even guess at how butter starts life – despite being presented with a range of pictures of animals and crops, including a dairy cow. One in ten thought butter did not come from any of the images shown, while 7 per cent of the 2,000 surveyed guessed it came from wheat.
Yesterday, Westcountry farmers involved in education programmes said they were "disappointed, but not surprised" at the results, and many reported similar tales of ignorance.
The survey was commissioned by Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), which is organising Open Farm Sunday this weekend.
The event will see 18 farms in Cornwall and 24 in Devon open gates to visitors, with events including guided walks and tractor rides to provide an insight into rural life.
Cornish farmer Caroline Drummond, chief executive of LEAF, said the research revealed how bad awareness had dropped. "Despite what they think, young adults are clearly becoming removed from where their food comes from.
"Three in ten adults born in the 1990s haven't visited a farm in more than ten years, if at all, which is a real shame as our farmers not only play an important role in food production but are passionate about engaging and reconnecting consumers too."
LEAF's research shows that four in ten adults born in the 1990s consider themselves knowledgeable about where food comes from. But a third of 16 to 24-year-olds did not know where eggs originate, with one in ten believing they come from wheat or maize. Only half identified that steak comes from beef cattle, with 12 per cent thinking it comes from a crop. More than a third also failed to connect pigs with bacon.
West Town Farm, at Ide near Exeter, will open to the pubic on Sunday as part of a series of educational visits throughout the year. Marketing and events coordinator Harriet Bell said she had been "shocked" by the level of ignorance among some Westcountry children. "I grew up in London, where some kids spend their whole lives without ever visiting the countryside, and the only green space they would see is the local park. But I do find it shocking that kids from Exeter know very little about where food comes from. They can see the fields and farms from the city centre."
Chris Murray, who owns Pennywell Farm at Buckfastleigh, said he was "flabbergasted" by the findings. "It's shocking that people have no idea what they are putting into their bodies, and how it will affect them," he said. "On a very basic level, you need to know whether it's good or bad for you."
Martin Howlett will open up Deer Park Farm, near Callington, on Sunday, and is heavily involved in raising awareness of farming among children. He called on other farmers to get involved, saying: "I felt that we were beginning to turn a bit of a corner, but clearly this report shows we have still got a long way to go."