US - A new consumer survey by Purdue University shows many consumers gain knowledge of livestock and poultry welfare from animal rights organisations. A significant number of respondents reported they had reduced their pork purchases by an average of 56 per cent following recent media attention focusing on animal care practices used in the US swine industry.
A new study from Purdue University shows that overall, the US livestock and poultry industries and other organisations affiliated with animal agriculture are less used public sources of information on animal welfare than popular animal protection organisations.
Improved understanding of the factors that contribute to consumers’ evolving perceptions of the care and welfare of farm animals is an essential step toward enhanced sustainability and social responsibility in contemporary food production systems, concluded M.G.S. McKendree and co-authors.
In their paper in Journal of Animal Science, they state that, as consumers have become more interested in understanding how their food is produced, scrutiny and criticism have increased regarding intensified food animal production methods.
Resolution of public concerns about animal agricultural practices depends on understanding the myriad factors that provide the basis for concerns.
The researchers conducted an online survey of 798 US households was conducted to investigate relationships between household characteristics (demographics, geographic location and experiences) and level of concern for animal welfare as well as sources used to obtain information on the subject.
Because recent media attention has focused on animal care practices used in the US swine industry, respondents were also asked specific questions pertaining to their perceptions of pig management practices and welfare issues and their corresponding pork purchasing behaviour.
Respondents reporting higher levels of concern about animal welfare were more frequently female, younger and self-reported members of the Democratic Party.
Fourteen per cent of respondents reported reduction in pork consumption because of animal welfare concerns with an average reduction of 56 per cent.
Over half of the respondents - 56 per cent - did not have a primary source for animal welfare information; those who identified a primary information source most commonly used information provided by animal protection organisations, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The Purdue group also reported some regional differences. They mentioned that Midwest participants were significantly less concerned about domestic livestock animal welfare and more frequently reported not having a source for animal welfare information than those from other regions of the United States.
McKendree M.G.S., C.C. Croney and N.J.O. Widmar. 2014. Effects of demographic factors and information sources on United States consumer perceptions of animal welfare. J. Anim. Sci. 92(7):3161-3173. doi: 10.2527/jas.2014-6874
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