Meeting Heterogeneity in Consumer Demand for Animal Welfare: A Reflection on Existing Knowledge and Implications for the Meat Sector

Review Paper


The legitimacy of the dominant intensive meat production system with respect to the issue of animal welfare is increasingly being questioned by stakeholders across the meat supply chain. The current meat supply is highly undifferentiated, catering only for the extremes of morality concerns (i.e., conventional vs. organic meat products). However, a latent need for compromise products has been identified. That is, consumer differences exist regarding the trade-offs they make between different aspects associated with meat consumption. The heterogeneity in consumer demand could function as a starting point for market segmentation, targeting and positioning regarding animal welfare concepts that are differentiated in terms of animal welfare and price levels. Despite this, stakeholders in the meat supply chain seem to be trapped in the dominant business model focused on low cost prices. This paper aims to identify conflicting interests that stakeholders in the meat supply chain experience in order to increase understanding of why heterogeneous consumer preferences are not met by a more differentiated supply of meat products produced at different levels of animal welfare standards. In addition, characteristics of the supply chain that contribute to the existence of high exit barriers and difficulty to shift to more animal-friendly production systems are identified. Following the analysis of conflicting interests among stakeholders and factors that contribute to difficulty to transform the existing dominant regime, different routes are discussed that may help and motivate stakeholders to overcome these barriers and stimulate the creation of new markets.


Animal welfare standards Meat supply chain Consumers Ambivalence System lock-in Social dilemma theory Europe 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marketing and Consumer Behaviour GroupWageningen University and Research CenterWageningenThe Netherlands

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