Zhifeng Gao

Associate Professor, Marketing, Consumer Behavior and Applied Econometrics

Dr. Gao's research program aims to enhance understanding of consumer attitudes and preferences for selected attributes of food products. This research provides critical information for the food industry and is used to develop policies that encourage the availability of high-quality food products to consumers. These objectives fit with the overall goal of improving consumer and producer welfare by determining consumer demand for high-quality food products and by providing new market opportunities in food industries.

Dr. Gao has used surveys, economic experiments, and economic and econometric analyses to assess (1) the effects of various factors on estimations of consumer preferences; (2) the impacts of food labels, packages and information on consumer food choices and demand; (3) consumer preferences for fresh (e.g. fresh citrus) and processed food products (e.g. orange juice); and (4) Chinese consumer preference for foods with different characteristics such as orange juice with higher juice contents, green food, GMO food etc. He is also interested in consumer choice of diet quality and the relationship between food choices and diet and human health. In addition, he works on the tools and methods that can improve online survey data quality. At last he actively involves in interdisciplinary research to determine the economic feasibility of and growers' attitude towards new technology related to sustainable agriculture.

Dr. Gao has published research on consumer preferences and choices of food, impacts of food label and factors affecting consumer behavior as well as other applied economic research in high-impact journals. These include the pre-eminent agricultural economics journals and journals in related fields, such as American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Economics, China Economic Review, Food Policy, Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics, HortScience, Applied Economics Policy and Perspectives, Economics Letters, British Food Journal, etc.



This is a first-year graduate course in Food and Resource Economics department to help students understand and apply econometric approaches to problem-solving. Major emphasis is placed on applications of methods to problems in economics and related fields. Students are expected to have a good understanding of the basic concepts in econometrics; apply econometric tools to modeling, estimation, inference, and forecasting in the context of real-world problem-solving; be able to evaluate and interpret the results and conclusion of econometric models, and be prepared for advanced econometric courses.


This is the second course in a sequence of graduate microeconomic theory. The objective of this course is to provide the basic understanding of a broad body of advanced theories and models in microeconomics. Attention is given to general equilibrium theory and applications, welfare economics and economics of choice under uncertainty. Students are expected to master the base methodologies in microeconomic analysis, such as setting up models and conducting comparative static analyses.

AEB 6933-Applied Valuation Methods (Ph.D. field elective course)

This class focuses on the application of valuation methods that are frequently used for the valuation of the market and non-market goods and services. Particularly this class mainly discuss the methods that estimate consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for products and services. It starts from the basic economic theory to derive the WTP measure, followed by the empirical methods that can be used to elicit consumer WTP. Three key methods will be covered. The choice experiment will cover the choice experiment designs, the related economic theory, and major econometric methods. CVM will cover the major CVM: open-ended CVM, close-ended single-bounded referendum, and close-ended double-bounded referendum as well as corresponding econometric methods. The auction will cover major auction method, BMD, 2nd price auction, random nth-price auction, and the corresponding econometric method. The pros and cons of each approach will also be discussed in the class.

Dr. Gao's research program aims to enhance understanding of consumer attitudes and preferences for selected attributes of food products

Past and Current Projects (selected)

  1. Adapting and Expanding High Tunnel Organic Vegetable Production for the Southeast, USDA, Organic Research and Extension Initiative Goals of my part:
  • On-farm economic viability of high tunnel for organic vegetable production
  • Identify the factor influencing high tunnel adoption among organic growers
  1. Growing New Roots: Grafting to Enhance Resiliency in U.S. Vegetable Industries, USDA, Specialty Crop Research Initiative Goals of my part:
  • Develop enterprise budget to evaluate the economic viability under various changing factors
  • Develop customizable decision support Excel file for on-farm analyses
  • Identify and quantify where applicable the impact of on-farm grafting technology adoption on producers and the environment (e.g., pesticide use, sustainable production).
  1. Sustainable organic strawberry (SOS) cropping systems for the southeast, USDA, Organic Research and Extension Initiative Goals of my part:
  • Evaluate consumer preferences for traditional and recently released strawberry cultivars with regard to sensory attributes
  • Calculate production costs and potential returns of selected management alternatives based on data from the biological research
  1. Economics analysis of anaerobic soil disinfestation in the southeastern United State. USDA, ARS Goals:
  • Evaluate the economic feasibility of different types of ASD treatments for vegetable production
  1. Branding strategies to enhance the competitiveness of Florida strawberries. Florida Strawberry Association Goals:
  • Determine the most important factors that affect consumers choice of fresh strawberries, and the impact of different branding strategies on consumer purchase and repurchase of fresh strawberries.

Zhifeng Gao, Associate Professor, Marketing, Consumer Behavior and Applied Econometrics