Consumer Concerns about Animal Welfare and the Impact on Food Choice

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4.4Meat quality programmes

Due to lack of data, it is not possible to quantify market size and market structure for ”animal friendly” products from the demand side of consumers. It is easier to assess the market from the supply side of producers. But even then, only few data are available.

There are a number of meat quality assurance programmes for beef and pork in Germany. Some of these include criteria related to aspects of animal welfare like ”appropriate keeping”, ”careful transport”, ”careful slaughter”, ”appropriate feeding”, ”no medical drugs or fatteners”. According to BUND (1998), the most demanding of these for conventional, i.e. not ecologically produced meat is the certified meat quality programme of CMA (Central Marketing for Agriculture)40 It was set up in 1990 for pork and 1992 for beef. Careful transport and slaughter and no medical drugs apply to all brands with this certificate. Yet, BUND (1998) criticises that this is what the German Animal Welfare Act demands anyway. Not included are more fare reaching demands like not to keep animals on fully slatted floors, limit flock size or not use fatteners. Two brands which carry the certificate do more than demanded by the certificate, notably meat of ”Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch-Hall (BES)” and ”Thönes Natur”.

Ralf-Uwe Beck of BUND, referring to a survey of 2500 supermarkets and butchers, estimates a maximum of 5% of conventional beef and 10% of conventional pork in Germany to carry the CMA certificate. He emphasises that most of it is intensively produced (factory farming) and cannot be said to be produced respecting high standards of animal welfare. A further result of the survey by BUND is that against some claims of quality programmes, 90% of beef and pork in Germany cannot be followed back to its origin. Therefore, it is not possible to test whether stated claims are correct.

BUND (1998) concludes that ecologically produced meat certified with the label of AGÖL assures better standards of animal welfare and also allows to find out about meat origin. Independent of these, very high animal welfare standards are assured by ”Neuland” and good standards by brands like ”Ökobund”, ”WFG Franki”, ”Reiter”, ”FairLand”, ”Waldecker Weideschwein”, ”Limousin Herdbuchzucht” and ”Marschenrind”. The latter three, however, do not have any external controls.

BUND (1998) criticises, that the large amount of quality labels and certificates confuses the consumer. Advertising gives the impression that most meat is produced up to high standards also with respect to animal welfare. This is seen as an obstacle for consumer decision making

4.5Information material for consumers

Various organisations produce information material for consumers on issues of animal welfare. An overview and content analysis of the material available in 1994 is given in BALSER (1994). Her findings are summarised in this section.

BALSER lists fifty useful informants. Not among them are food consultants or government departments, who did not send in relevant material when asked.41 Most of the material was provided in the form of information sheets or leaflets. These were either meant for short- or long-term use. Rarely used booklets covered aspects of animal husbandry like cage-keeping, veal rearing or animal transport. The abbatoir Thönes is the only organisation to publish a regular journal, which reports on efforts to further appropriate husbandry. Not available in 1994 was a comprehensive booklet about all aspects of appropriate husbandry for consumers. Little education material was written for children42 and no translations into other languages were available for people not capable of the German language.

BALSER distinguishes commercial informants (meat-quality assurance programms, abattoirs, wholesalers, retailers, farmers and producer organisations), producer-independent informants (information services, animal protection societies, consumer associations) and a mixture between the two (e.g. producer-consumer-initiatives).

Producers generally delegated publishing of information materials to producer organisations. Advertising and information work for meat programmes was done by the CMA. Farmers assuring high standards of animal welfare in food production aimed to clarify differences from ordinary producers and to justify higher prices. The relatively brief information material was used as a means of advertising. Consumers were addressed emotionally, segments targeted included those distrusting food safety, animal protectionists, environmentally conscious consumers and hedonists. The material conveyed the impression of a good background knowledge of authors but a dominating commercial objective was obvious and diminished trust. There was a mismatch between stated and realised animal welfare for a lot of meat quality programmes. While animal welfare was referred to in advertising, there was a lack of actual guidelines and controls to assure that promises were met. Balser judged the information work of Thönes-Naturverbund to be best.

Animal protection societies and especially the „Society against cruel factory farming“ (VgtM43) provided most material. In addition to farm animals used in food production, issues like animal testing, fur production and others were covered. Animal protectionists informed consumers primarily about problematic aspects of intensive lifestock farming and used pictures extensively. Examples of better practices were rarely included. The booklets were well written and often gave a comprehensive and well researched introduction into the relevant questions. On the other hand leaflets sometimes lacked adequate explanations of catchwords and negative pictures. Appeals were made on the consumers to promote animal welfare in everyday life. Apart from a general call for lower consumption of meat and eggs, specific advice for shopping opportunities was provided and thus the responsibility of consumers clarified.

Consumer associations published a comprehensive booklet on meat44 and only few leaflets. Otherwise they used material from animal protection societies or passed on suitable addresses. Overall they paid little attention to animal welfare as they were primarily concerned with adverse effects of food for consumers. AID and IMA are the two agricultural information services in Germany. AID only briefly touched appropriate husbandry in some booklets while IMA published a leaflet and a booklet on animal protection in agriculture.45 Balser judged the information material of AID and IMA as insufficient and that of IMA even as problematic. Materials were mostly meant for farmers.

Complexity of animal welfare issues poses a common problem for producer-independent informants. Some leaflets accordingly contained false statements (Balser, 1994, p. 30). Often the problem is evaded by contracting competent authors and scientists for the production of relevant material, which also assured high trustworthiness.

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