Consumer Knowledge of Animal Welfare Standards
- Pp. 46-57 (12)Riccardo Vecchio and Azzurra Annunziata
European Union (EU) directives identify specific quality and quantity characteristics of the spaces where animals are kept and detailed breeder behaviour aimed at minimizing animal suffering. The development of European legislation over the years has been characterized by broadening of the scope of action and by an increase in the number of species covered by definitive rules. However, while EU legislation has progressively focused on granting animals better possibilities to express their behavioural repertoire, recent analysis shows that consumer knowledge of animal welfare compulsory standards is still quite limited. This is particularly true for the farming conditions of layer hens even though animal welfare in poultry production systems in the EU has received great legislative attention. Drawing on the results of a direct survey on 300 Italian food shoppers, our research analyzes consumer knowledge of the welfare standards of laying hens. Our findings show that, although the majority of the sample (79%) expressed concern on hen husbandry systems, 67% of respondents were unaware of the current mandatory labelling system for eggs. Through cluster analysis three segments were found: the inactive consumer cluster (39%) that groups respondents claiming not to take animal welfare into account in their food purchasing decisions, the so-called conflicted consumer cluster (48%) including individuals that are reluctant to accept responsibility for animal welfare through their demand for animal-friendly food products, and the ethically competent consumer cluster (13%) consisting of respondents very concerned about animal welfare. Our findings highlight important market opportunities and policy implications.