Public Attitudes To The Welfare Of Broiler Chickens
This paper reports results from two workshops held in York, England that investigated public attitudes towards the welfare of broiler chickens. Initially, the majority of participants knew little about how broiler chickens are reared and were shocked at some of the facts presented to them. This study shows that some members of the public are both interested in learning about how their food is produced and concerned about the conditions faced by broiler chickens. Some are able to see clear links between public opinion and the welfare of farm animals, which is important in affecting consumer behavior.
9 women and 7 men, drawn largely from the “lower middle class” with some secondary level of education or vocational training, were interviewed about their knowledge of broiler chicken farming. The majority new “a little” and all stated they ate chicken meat and were concerned about farmed animal welfare.
The most common factors influencing these respondents choice to buy chicken were “quality/freshness” and “price,” followed by “appearance,” and “how it is farmed/whether it is organically farmed.” However, when given specific factors, the most common were “sell-by date,” and “appearance,” followed by “quality food labeling,” and “price.”
In response to imagine you are given £10 a month that must be spent on food products that are farmed using better than average animal welfare standards. How would you spend it (more than one choice permitted)? The most common response was chicken, followed by fish, then eggs; these responses were most likely influenced by the topic of the workshop.
Finally, respondents were asked if they could list any issues that they were particularly concerned about, related to how farmed chickens are treated. The most common issues were “battery rearing” and “crowded conditions.” Respondents were also asked about their awareness and perceived importance of many specific living conditions, as detailed in the full report.
In summary, these findings support earlier research into consumer attitudes towards animal welfare. Initially, there was very little prior knowledge about production methods and shock at discovering the reality of conditions under which broiler chickens are reared. There was a stated intention from some participants to think more carefully when choosing meat products in the future.
However, there was also a “realistic” awareness that, to produce inexpensive food, the majority of chickens will not have an idealistic, natural life-cycle. Participants said that there may be connections between their own purchasing behavior and the living conditions of chickens, but they were also realistic about intensive agriculture and the role it plays in modern day food production.