CANADA - An associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University says ultimately consumers will pay for the changes they're demanding in animal welfare, writes Bruce Cochrane.
"What Will Consumers Really Pay for Happier Pigs?" was among the questions asked last month during the 2015 Banff Pork Seminar.
Dr Glynn Tonsor, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University, observes the public is asking more questions about how we produce our food, and animal welfare is one of many issues that keep coming up.
Dr Glynn Tonsor-Kansas State University:
We live in an era where it's next to free to ask questions.
You can want to know more, put pressure on industry to defend, explain, bem more open about the production practices but you don't necessarily have to pay a dollar more for that pork chop that has those different adjustments in production practices so that creates economic challenges for the pork industry.
Another one of the things I shared was animal welfare matters but it's much lower on the relative importance scale than things like safety, freshness, taste, nutrition, health and price in particular.
I proceeded to put actual animal welfare in a broader bucket of social concerns, so issues with of antibiotic or hormone use, environmental impact, origin and traceability labelling and a host of those things that I would broadly call more social concerns than things like safety, freshness, and taste.
What we found looking at a host of different meat products is animal welfare narrowly and then all of those social concern, products or claims more broadly are all less important than safety, freshness, taste, and price.
To answer the questions of my title, I was given a no and a yes answer throughout the entire talk.
In the short term the average US or Canadian consumer will not pay a premium for practices deemed as more animal welfare friendly yet in the long term they will because over time we have higher operating costs as we adjust, whether we use antibiotics or not or move away from gestation stalls, what ever the example you want to use here.
We have higher cost of producing hogs and therefore pork, the public will pay for that long term and that was hence my yes and no, is the answer to the core question of the day.
Dr Tonsor notes the slides from the presentation are available on line and any one interested in more information can contact him directly.
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