Canadian consumer valuation of farm animal welfare and quality verification – the case of pork
There is increasing pressure from animal rights organizations (AROs) on restaurant chains, food retailers, and meat processors to implement more stringent farm animal welfare (FAW) requirements for their suppliers. In the United States, AROs have recently initiated successful ballots to phase out confinement practices in several states. In Canada AROs have been pressuring both public and private sector stakeholders to improve FAW. Are FAW issues, however, paramount in the minds of Canadian consumers? Is the demand for more stringent FAW protocols primarily determined by a subset of consumers with very strong preferences or does it signal a more fundamental underlying change in consumer and societal preferences? Given the credence nature of FAW, who do consumers trust (i.e., government vs. private industry vs. independent third parties) in the market place for the provision of FAW quality assurances? What are the determinants of trust in these organizations for providing accurate information about animal welfare? In order to answer these questions, a stated preference consumer survey encompassing FAW issues specific to the Canadian pork sector was tested on two samples of consumers in summer 2008, namely: a general population sample (GPS) across Canada and a sample of AROs members. Consumers participated in a purchase experiment where they had to chose between pork chops characterized by combinations of different levels of FAW attributes (i.e., housing system, gestation stalls, and use of antibiotics), quality verifying organization, and price. Multinomial Logit and Latent Class Logit Models were used to analyse the survey data. Surprisingly, “outdoor system” does not seem to resonate well with Canadians, as both the GPS and the members of the AROs discounted this attribute. As expected, the AROs members have much stronger preferences for the other FAW attributes than have consumers in the GPS. Nevertheless, significant heterogeneity exists within consumer preferences. Five classes of consumers were identified in the GPS with respect to their preferences for FAW. At one end of the spectrum are the “FAW sensitive” consumers (12.3%) that have higher willingness-to-pay (WTP) for FAW, while at the other end of the spectrum “Price Conscious” consumers (18.3%) do not exhibit any WTP for FAW. The other three classes (69.4%) comprise respondents with mixed perceptions regarding FAW. Government and Third Party verification of FAW quality assurances had the strongest influence on consumers’ preferences in both samples. As well, scientific experts in FAW along with the above two organizations are the most credible in providing information about the welfare of pigs. The extent to which these organizations are knowledgeable about the welfare of pigs is the most important factor enhancing consumers’ trust. Results from this study suggest that there are potential marketing opportunities for pork chops sourced from pigs raised on farms where sows are kept in groups, and where credible quality assurances can be established, that private industry could consider. As well, the results suggest that consumers would derive benefits from the government taking a more active role with respect to validating FAW quality assurances.
discrete choice, trust, farm animal welfare attributes, quality assurance
Master of Science (M.Sc.)