Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Comments of the Ordinary Consumer

A number of surveys have been conducted measuring consumer views on the farm animal welfare issue.  Conventional surveys can elicit responses from a large number of people, but do not allow them to express their own ideas in their own words.  A recent article studied the views of a small number of people: 16 British.  Yet their comments are interesting.  Some of my favorite are given below.

When one person learned the mortality rate in a broiler facility was only 5%, they stated, 
I'd have expected it to be around 30 or 40%, what with all the chickens being so close together in such a warm atmosphere.  This comment reminds us that consumer perceptions of how farm animals are affected by factory farms may not mirror reality.

Consider some others...

It is a shame the chickens don't enjoy a natural life cycle, but I suppose this is necessary if we want cheap meat.

It is about getting a balance between caring for the chickens and not becoming too sentimental.  You've got to accept the reality of intensive farming.

It is too convenient to buy cheap meat for people to be really concerned about how it is produced. 

You know in the back of your mind what's going on, but you can't think about these things all the time.

The authors' summary of some of these comments are as follows.

There was however a realistic awareness that if we want cheap food then the majority of chickens are never going to be afforded an idealistic, natural lifecycle. Participants were capable of understanding that there may be connections between their own purchasing behaviour and the conditions faced by chickens. However, they were also realistic about intensive agriculture and the role it inevitably plays in modern day food production.

Source - Hall, C. and V Sandilands.  2007.  “Public Attitudes to the Welfare of Broiler Chickens.”  Animal Welfare.  16:499-512.