animal welfare - national farmers day

Animal welfare – why it is a top priority to farmers

When it comes to animal welfare consumers are most concerned about animal health according to recent studies, but so are farmers. The long-term success of farming relies on healthy animals. On National Farmers’day let’s not forget, behind every healthy animal is a strong farmer.

Caring for animals is at the heart of livestock farming

The problem is people often have very different perceptions of what animal welfare means. Studies  have shown that in the members of the public this is influenced by the situation in question, the context of the animal and personal characteristics.

Most farmers choose farming as a career, because they care deeply about animals. On top of that the farm’s economic success depends on healthy animals. For those reasons, farmers in collaboration with their veterinarians and nutritionists take many measures to make sure their animals are happy, comfortable and above all healthy.

Modern farms also employ AI assisted digital tools and sensors that pretty much allow them to monitor their animals 24/7 very closely and individually on top of their daily routine check-ups.

animal welfare . national farmersday 2021

Providing continuous feedback, based on real-time data, this enables the farmer to make better and more timely management decisions to address health needs and minimize health issues for his/her animals in care.

With accurate and real-time data at their fingertips, farmers can also be more selective with supplies and resources and as a result reduce emissions and environmental impact.

What is driving consumer viewpoints and choices?

A 2021 study by the international food and information council on consumer viewpoints and purchasing behaviors regarding animal and plant protein revealed that despite capturing widespread interest, animal welfare and environmental sustainability are the least prioritized purchase drivers.

What is driving purchasing decisions in consumers of protein is firstly taste, then price, followed by type of protein and healthfulness.

When asked about the importance of food labels, top influences for animal protein decisions were “no antibiotics” (23%), “natural” (23%) and “no added hormones” (22%). These labels ranked much higher compared to “free range” (11%) or “cage free” (11%).

In the UK a study carried out by Vigors et al (2021) with a sample of members of the public representative of the UK population indicated that participants considered animal welfare to be most positive when both health issues are minimised and natural behaviours are promoted.

However, animal health had the greatest effect on participants’ judgements, explaining more of the variance in their assessments of animal welfare than any other factor. The researchers concluded that perspectives of animal welfare are more nuanced than previously thought, influenced by the context of the animal, the aspect of welfare in question and personal characteristics.

Relevant articles

Happy or healthy? How members of the public prioritise farm animal health and natural behaviours, 

Plant and Animal Protein Choices: Consumer Viewpoints and Purchasing Behaviors 2021 

Behind every healthy animal is a strong farmer