A recent study by the University of Copenhagen examined consumer attitudes towards pork production. The findings emphasise that factors such as animal welfare, reduced antibiotic use, and overall quality precede climate-friendliness. This research sheds light on the hierarchy of consumer concerns in a world where pork consumption produces hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 annually. It provides insights for policymakers and the pork industry.
The study, encompassing respondents from Denmark, Germany, the UK, and Shanghai, China, reveals a compelling trend. A substantial percentage of consumers in these regions express their willingness to pay extra for pork that offers better animal welfare, reduced climate impact, decreased antibiotic usage, and freedom from harmful bacteria. The clearing of rainforests for soy-fed animals was also a significant concern.
Surprisingly, climate improvements in pork production do not top consumers' priorities. Despite the climate's significant presence in public debate, consumers prefer improved pig welfare over a lower climate footprint.
Researchers point out that creating a more climate-friendly pig, in essence, involves more "efficient" pigs, which might mean sows birthing more piglets or keeping animals indoors, which could lead to increased emissions. However, this presents a dilemma for producers focused solely on climate friendliness.
Consumers feel a stronger personal connection with animal welfare than climate impact, perceiving it as an area where they can make a meaningful difference. The study calls for a shift in focus, emphasising that climate-friendly labelling may not align with consumers' preferences and that pork producers and policymakers should aim for higher minimum requirements to improve pig welfare.
The study concludes that more stringent standards could pave the way for better living conditions for pigs. Moreover, the retail sector could benefit from a streamlined product selection. For instance, a national consensus on selling only pork meeting specific animal welfare criteria could be a step forward.
The emphasis remains on making animal welfare a top priority in the pork industry, advocating for new regulations that address the welfare of animals and creating a more sustainable future.