Willingness-To-Pay For Pig Welfare In China
In China, pig meat is a huge staple of the omnivorous diet, accounting for more than 40% of meat eaten. Despite its staple status, the demand for pork is somewhat flexible, especially as it relates to food safety – scandals related to pig farming have and continue to have an impact, and cause fluctuations in the market. Governments have been working to make the system function more smoothly, with various traceability schemes including ear tags, immunization records, bar codes, and more playing a a part. Still, there is “considerable variation” among Chinese consumer demand for food safety, and the willingness to pay (WTP) for it.
This seeming variation in consumer attitudes, researchers note that there is a “need to obtain a better understanding of Chinese consumers’ risk perceptions and how it impacts valuation of food safety characteristics in terms of price premiums.” The research in this case is specifically looks at food safety as the key component, examining whether or not “the perceived potential of getting sick from eating a particular product, pork, affects the consumer’s WTP. Though human sickness is the focus here, the consumer WTP for food safety, country of origin, animal welfare, and environmental impact help to establish a baseline for comparison. The data were collected from nearly 500 consumers from Shanghai and Beijing.
As the researchers expected, the study found that Chinese consumers are indeed willing to pay for enhanced food safety, environmentally-friendly farming, domestic labels, and animal welfare labels. Informational packaging and labeling “provides a strong signal to consumers and increases their confidence in purchasing products.” Consumers pick up on this signal and are willing to pay a small-to-medium premium for it, dependent on the context.
For animal advocates, the study should be encouraging: consumers are willing to pay for better animal welfare. However, as is often the case with such tradeoffs, advocates will want to be sure that, first and foremost, packaging is truthful, and that secondly, enhancements in animal welfare and marketing of it doesn’t simply increase consumption overall.