Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 153–171 | Cite as

Public and Consumer Policies for Higher Welfare Food Products: Challenges and Opportunities

  • Filiep Vanhonacker
  • Wim Verbeke
Review Paper


Farm animal welfare in livestock production is a topical and important issue attracting growing interest of policy makers, consumers, stakeholders in the supply chain and others. While there is much public interest in the issue this is not reflected in the supply and market shares of animal food products that are produced under welfare standards that exceed legislative requirements. Given the obstacles to devising stricter legislative standards, higher welfare animal food products are mostly made available through market-based approaches. This paper discusses different challenges and opportunities for a range of public and consumer policies and makes recommendations on how these might be strengthened. The paper does not report primary empirical findings but assembles available knowledge on citizen and consumer attitudes and perceptions towards animal welfare from various research disciplines. We argue that in order for public and consumer policies to be (more) efficient and effective, it is important to develop a segmented and targeted strategy. This paper will thus elaborate on what information could and should be provided to whom. This implies the need for a good understanding of how people conceptualize farm animal welfare. Further, information provisioning should address the needs and expectations of those specific consumer segments most likely to be motivated to purchase higher welfare products. Based on the assembled information, opportunities and challenges for information provisioning and communication to the public and consumers are identified. The merits and limitations of different forms of information provisioning and animal welfare labelling are discussed and recommendations are set forth for future research.


Communication Consumer Farm animal welfare Information Label Policy 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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