Willingness to pay for higher welfare: A study on Dutch consumers

Mulder, M. and Zomer, S. (2017) Dutch consumers’ willingness to pay for broiler welfare. Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 20 (2), 137–154.

Farm animal welfare is affected by consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for the end product, since additional welfare provisions typically incur additional costs to producers. This study explored the attitudes of Dutch consumers to broiler chicken welfare and associated WTP.

Questionnaires were analysed from 846 male and 757 female respondents from an online panel of households, considered to be representative of the Dutch population, who purchase and consume chicken.  Respondents were firstly informed about broiler management systems and factors influencing animal welfare. They then undertook Contingent Valuation Method (CVM) questioning, in which WTP in relation to several welfare attributes, including access to outdoor space and legislative protection were indicated.  Respondents then conducted a choice experiment in which they selected a preference from broilers in two different welfare scenarios (or neither).  Demographic data, such as income level and gender, were also obtained from respondents. 

Respondents indicated willingness to pay 50% more for higher welfare chicken 

Key findings were that respondents indicated a particularly high WTP for the welfare attributes of access to outdoor space and method of anaesthesia. They also valued legislative supervision of farm animal welfare rather than an uncontrolled free market.  Respondents did not report any strong influence of social pressure on their consumer behaviour and purchasing choices.  Female respondents, those with more education, and non-religious respondents showed a greater WTP for improved animal welfare.  A positive relationship was also identified between WTP and income. 

Results indicated a higher WTP for chicken with improved welfare, although this is not currently reflected in actual buying behaviour of Dutch consumers.  The authors suggest this may be due to ignorance of the realities of farm animal production systems and welfare implications, or lack of confidence in product labelling.  Accordingly, they conclude that increasing public confidence in product labelling is important to support improved farm animal welfare through consumer behavioural influence.   

World Animal Protection’s view

We understand the important influence that consumer purchasing power has on farm animal welfare.  Studies such as this, that seek to better understand motivation for purchasing higher-welfare products, can be valuable in supporting our work to advocate for improved standards of animal welfare throughout the farming sector.  We agree that there is an important role for better public understanding of the realities of intensive farming, and strive to achieve this through our educational and campaigning work.