Animal production

The consumer vs. animal welfare

For consumers, it is important to know under what conditions the animals from which the meat, milk and other products originate have been kept and fed. Also very important is the state of health of the animals, their absence of diseases and, if necessary, the correct treatment process.

The drive to improve animal welfare is not incompatible with the quality of the final product, quite the contrary. However, more often than not, improving animal welfare involves investment and considerable expenditure, which is not easy for the producer and translates into a price per unit of product for the customer.

In most EU countries, more than 50% of consumers are in favour of changing where they buy animal products to one that guarantees that they are produced without compromising animal welfare (Eurobarometer 2015). Furthermore, Europeans indicate that “ensuring the welfare of farm animals is the responsibility of farmers in our society” (Eurobarometer 2015). This implies an expectation of action from farmers, but also an acceptance of higher food costs.

There are sometimes reports in the media about critical areas of welfare – e.g. lameness in cattle, horses or aggression in animals, but these appeal less to consumers than issues closer to the human perception of the world, such as freedom to be outdoors, free access to pasture and paddocks. Buying animal welfare-friendly products is perceived as ethical and moral because it has a positive impact on the quality of life of animals. This is an important motivation for customers to pay a higher price for products from producers who declare appropriate animal welfare.