Consumer survey information from Glynn Tonsor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University, shows that consumers often group their survey responses on animal welfare by production practices versus species. In other words, they look at the topic of castration or tail docking or gestation crates over all species instead of looking at it as a cattle, swine or poultry topic. This means no species is free from being a target.
His survey work showed that consumers rate information from the Humane Society of the United States as more accurate than scientists, PETA, producer groups and state/federal government sources. However, they rated farmers/growers the highest in their ability to influence consumers and assure animal welfare over the government, HSUS, producer groups, PETA and retailers/restaurants. Consumers associate good animal welfare and higher food safety with smaller farms. Other survey questions involved attitudes about labeling, gestation crates, pricing of food related to new legislation and others.
The take home point was that the first voice at the table to suggest legislation or a change often commandeers it, and there is a substantial cost to not being at the table and talking about it. Often there is also an opportunity for industry groups to push the timetables for some of this legislation, especially regarding animal welfare, to more reasonable lengths of time before legislation takes effect.
Tonsor’s research concluded that consumer desires regularly drive change, and accurate knowledge is not necessary to be influential, and there is also a demand for more transparency.