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Agricultural News

K-State Studies Consumer Attitudes Toward Animal Welfare and Their Willingness to Pay

Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:36:52 CDT

K-State Studies Consumer Attitudes Toward Animal Welfare and Their Willingness to Pay

A new study surveyed beef consumers and cow-calf producers on their view points on animal welfare in cattle production. Kansas State University and Michigan State University were involved in this study. K-State Agricultural Economists Melissa McKendree and Glynn Tonsor reviewed the findings of this new study. McKendree said they were looking at the consumer's idea regarding how important animal welfare was in purchasing food.

Respondents were asked if they had purchased ground beef or beef steak with selected attributes such as animal welfare assured, organic, and hormone-free, as well as the premium they were willing to pay (WTP) per pound for ground beef or beef steak with these same attributes. McKendree said they had a lot consumers didn't recall either purchasing or they hadn't purchased beef products with those attributes. Some of the attributes that were more commonly purchased in ground beef and beef steak were natural, guaranteed tender, but animal welfare and sustainably produced attributes fell toward the bottom. That was a little surprising to her, that consumers weren't all that gung ho on the importance of animal welfare, at least when they started making purchasing decisions. On the consumer survey, she said they stated they were concerned about animal welfare. Sixty-five percent stated they were concerned, but she said it was important to note they didn't define concerned for the consumers.

"So, they stated they were concerned about it, however this concern wasn't necessarily reflected in their current purchasing behavior," McKendree said.

In translating this study into economic signals, McKendree said most consumers were not willing to pay a much more for animal husbandry practices that related back to animal well-being. She said there were a small percentage of consumers that were willing to pay a premium. In ranking these attributes, she said they have found the willingness to pay values received through surveys can be inflated, due to biases. Overall, there were fewer participants that were willing to pay for animal welfare, in comparison to other attributes they investigated.

The survey identified 13 different practices related to animal welfare. McKendree said they looked at whether consumers were willing to pay for those attributes. She said the two production practices that the most consumers were willing to pay for are already being provided on farms, such as providing access to fresh, clean water and providing shade, wind breaks and ventilation.

The practices that consumers were not willing to pay a premium for, included dehorning and debudding with pain control and also castrating with pain control. On a parallel part of the survey, she said those were two attributes that consumers weren't aware of.

The information from this study will be very useful for the beef industry in addressing the animal welfare interests of the consumer.

To read the Executive Summary of the Animal Welfare study, click here.

Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays featured McKendree on the Beef Buzz feature. Click or tap on the LISTEN BAR below to listen to today's Beef Buzz.

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network- but is also a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show- and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.

Ron Hays Beef Buzzes with K-State agricultural economist Melissa McKendree
right-click to download mp3


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