Study finds animal welfare is a top priority for meat consumers

Study finds animal welfare is a top priority for meat consumers

The University of Portsmouth has conducted a study on consumer purchases of meat and dairy, finding that animal welfare was prioritised over sustainability when making purchasing decisions.

The study found that consumers prioritised animal welfare over green concerns.

The study – Consumers across five European countries prioritise animal welfare above environmental sustainability when buying meat and dairy products – was conducted over Czechia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, identifying the attributes that are most important to consumers buying meat and dairy products.

As part of the online survey, participants were asked to rate the importance of 18 different factors when making purchasing decisions. The ratings were made on a scale from one (not at all important) to five (extremely important).

Different factors included:

  • Animal welfare attributes – animal welfare, outdoor-reared/free range and pasture-fed
  • Attributes – freshness, quality/taste, healthy eating, nutrition, price, processing, special offers, convenience of use/preparation and familiarity of brand
  • Attributes related to environmental sustainability – locally produced, sustainable packaging, food miles, carbon footprint and organic
  • Social sustainability – fair trade or producer/farmer fairly paid.

The study found that looking at product labels, consumers valued information regarding animal welfare, food safety and health and nutrition. According to the University of Portsmouth, this information can help producers to market their products in a more targeted way, making them more attractive to consumers.

Dr Andy Jin, senior lecturer in Risk Management in the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Portsmouth, co-authored the study. He said: “Our study highlights the complex interplay of factors that influence consumer behaviour when buying meat and dairy products. Consumers indicated that information related to animal welfare, food safety, and health and nutrition was considered more important than environmental sustainability when making food choices.

“The findings demonstrate the importance of labelling strategies that encompass multiple aspects of product attributes, beyond environmental considerations alone.

“Labels on their own are not enough to change behaviour, especially for consumers who have low or no behavioural intention to buy sustainable meat or dairy products.

“These results should be translated into additional policy measures, such as nudges or behavioural interventions, helping individuals translate their attitudes into behaviour and facilitating the choice of sustainably produced products.”

A similar study by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) into red meat labelling found that consumers sought health and provenance information, with information on farming methods and British assurance schemes also favoured.

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