Consumer Knowledge of Animal Welfare Standards
Pp. 46-57 (12)
Riccardo Vecchio and Azzurra Annunziata
European Union (EU) directives identify specific quality and quantity characteristics of the spaces
where animals are kept and detailed breeder behaviour aimed at minimizing animal suffering. The development
of European legislation over the years has been characterized by broadening of the scope of action and by an
increase in the number of species covered by definitive rules. However, while EU legislation has progressively
focused on granting animals better possibilities to express their behavioural repertoire, recent analysis shows that
consumer knowledge of animal welfare compulsory standards is still quite limited. This is particularly true for the
farming conditions of layer hens even though animal welfare in poultry production systems in the EU has
received great legislative attention. Drawing on the results of a direct survey on 300 Italian food shoppers, our
research analyzes consumer knowledge of the welfare standards of laying hens. Our findings show that, although
the majority of the sample (79%) expressed concern on hen husbandry systems, 67% of respondents were
unaware of the current mandatory labelling system for eggs. Through cluster analysis three segments were found:
the inactive consumer cluster (39%) that groups respondents claiming not to take animal welfare into account in
their food purchasing decisions, the so-called conflicted consumer cluster (48%) including individuals that are
reluctant to accept responsibility for animal welfare through their demand for animal-friendly food products, and
the ethically competent consumer cluster (13%) consisting of respondents very concerned about animal welfare.
Our findings highlight important market opportunities and policy implications.
EU animal welfare standards, laying hens, Italian consumers.
Department of Economic Studies "S. Vinci", University of Naples "Parthenope", Naples 80133, Italy