Adelaide University has embarked on a new, three-year research project to identify the key concerns among consumers about how livestock is treated and how much they are willing to pay for ethically produced meat.
The study, which is being conducted in partnership with industry, retailed and government, also looks at how consumer values influence livestock industry and food retailer decisions, which ultimately has an impact on what will be available on supermarket shelves in the future.
Funded by the Australian Research Council, the project is led by two University of Adelaide chief investigators: history and ethics expert Professor Rachel Ankeny, and economist and food policy specialist Associate Professor Wendy Umberger.
Bridging the gap
"What we're hoping to achieve from this project is a greater dialogue between consumers and producers," said Umberger.
"What people know and expect regarding animal welfare, and an understanding of how that influences consumers’ purchases of animal products at the supermarket, is critical to our study.
"This research will be all-encompassing, taking a whole-of-chain approach from paddock to plate. We'll examine people's actual purchasing behaviours and link that with information about their animal welfare beliefs. This will provide an understanding of not just what they buy, but how and why.
"We hope this work will help to better inform producers and consumers about each other’s perspective on animal welfare, and enable them both to make choices that will have sustainable benefits for animal welfare.”
Ankeny added: "We're interested in what the average person thinks, and how they behave.
"One of the things we'll be considering is whether there's a need for improved labelling that integrates method of production with animal welfare outcomes. Many labelling categories are largely unregulated, and the definition of these categories can be very broad.”
Elders Ltd, Coles supermarkets, and Richard Gunner's Fine Meats are all industry partners on this project, as well as Sardi, a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA.
"We couldn't do this research without one of the major retailers, and we're pleased that Coles has been so willing to be a partner on this project," said Ankeny.