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Consumers' evaluation of animal welfare labels on poultry products

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Powers, Rexanna (main author), Li, Nan (author), Gibson, Courtney (author), Irlbeck, Erica (author), Association for Communication Excellence (ACE)
Online journal article
Publication Date:
United States: New Prairie Press
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
animal rights, consumer information, consumers, labeling, poultry, product promotion, framing, animal welfare, industry, food marketing, food labeling, humane treatment
18 pages., via online journal, As the public has expressed increasing concerns regarding the humane raising and handling of farm animals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and industry organizations have developed a series of standards enforcing animal welfare in the poultry industry. Labels and value-added claims were created and defined to differentiate products and to inform consumers’ purchasing decisions. This study identified five labels related to animal welfare that are frequently found on food packages in the U.S. grocery stores, including both the mandatory labels and third-party, voluntary labels. Using a controlled online experiment (N=249), we examined the labels’ effects on consumers’ perception of humane treatment and purchasing tendencies toward egg products. Results showed that while most consumers lack knowledge regarding the labels’ meaning and certification standards, they rely on the labels with simplistic terms (e.g., "certified humane," "cage free") as heuristic cues to judge the ethical treatment of hens on the farm. However, the selected labels did not lead consumers to pay a higher premium for the labeled products. We discussed the implications for regulators, food marketers, and agricultural communicators.