Consumer attitudes and welfare labeling

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Studies by Kansas State University looked at quantifying the impact on meat and poultry purchase decisions based on animal welfare issues reported in the media.

KSU Agricultural Economics assistant professor Glynn Tonsor, PhD, spoke last week at the American Meat Institute’s Animal Care & Handling Conference in Kansas City, Mo., and said no one had previously assessed aggregate meat demand with animal welfare reporting.

Tonsor’s team tried to quantify animal welfare media attention from 1980-2008 in newspapers and magazines by using keyword searches for words such as animal welfare, handling, humane, etc. He noted there was very little form 1980 to 1995, and the 2008 Westland/Hallmark abuse case bumped up animal welfare reporting.

They studied the impact on beef, pork, poultry and “non-meat” categories. Tonsor found that the media impacts did not generally last longer than six months, but “all three meat categories lose when one of them is implicated,” he explained. “No species gains at the expense of the other, only ‘non-meat’ food gains.”

How much will they pay?
In another study in 2011, Tonsor examined the support for mandatory labeling of animal welfare on pork and poultry products. He found that 62% of those surveyed expressed support for mandatory animal welfare labeling on products, but 44% of those reversed their support when the price increased. He also found those that expressed support were willing to pay about 20% more.

Tonsor said meat demand impacts do exist and warrant industry consideration. “Animal welfare discussions are way a head of scientific knowledge, and that’s problematic,” he said.   

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