Humane Labelling - Are Shoppers Going to Pay?

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 "Free Farmed." "Freedom Farmed." "Freedom Foods."

Phrases like this certify that meat, eggs or dairy products came from a farm that meets the welfare standards of humane societies. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) introduced the labeling concept in the United Kingdom back in 1994. Farms and processors that meet specified animal welfare standards are given permission to use the "Freedom Foods" label. Following the lead of the RSPCA, the American Humane Association introduced their "Free Farmed" label in September 2000. In April 2001 both the British Columbia and Manitoba humane societies announced the creation of similar certification programs. These programs are the first of their kind in Canada. Saskatchewan and Ontario humane societies are considering implementing similar programs. Food that carries the humane label has a higher price tag than conventionally raised products. Representatives of the BC and Manitoba SPCA have indicated that "consumer demand for organic products shows a willingness among many consumers to pay for better quality." A BC survey in August 2001 surveyed 600 randomly chosen BC residents (province-wide). The respondents were asked how much more they would pay for humanely labelled food products. Two products were chosen - eggs and chicken. Over 40 per cent of the respondents said they would pay 12 to 25 per cent above current prices for each of these products - eggs and chicken. The Ontario Farm Animal Council surveyed 1000 randomly selected adults in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Peterborough and Halifax. 57% said they are willing to pay a 5% premium for foods labelled "humanely raised", while 11% of respondents stated they would pay a 20% premium. However, evidence from the UK does not support the Canadian research. When surveyed, consumers in the UK say that they would be willing to spend slightly more on food that is raised on farms that provide animals with a better quality of life. However, evidence from the checkout counter in the UK indicates that shoppers look for bargains rather than labels that certify high animal welfare standards. Unfortunately, this news may discourage farmers from investing in less intensive and higher welfare methods of production, since they may not be able to realize a return on their investment. Currently, Wendy Wismer of the Poultry Research Center is completing sensory analysis and consumer acceptance studies comparing traditionally and organically raised chicken.

Sources: BBC, Vancouver Sun, April 27, 2001, British Columbia SPCA
British Columbia SPCA Humane Label reproduced with permission.

Poultry Research Centre News Vol 10 No 3, November 2001

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Brenda L Reimer.
This information published to the web on November 26, 2001.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 13, 2007.