Consumer responses to animal welfare product labelling

Start date:
January 2010
April 2010

An investigation into the barriers to buying higher welfare products and whether labels could be the answer

This study investigated consumer understanding of, and responses to, higher animal welfare products and, in particular, whether or not a standardised animal welfare label would potentially increase consumer purchases of such products. In particular, Defra wished to understand how motivations or barriers to buying higher welfare products may be addressed and explore what stops those who already make some welfare purchasing decisions from making more.

The project explored the following questions:

  • What is behind the apparent disconnect between the public’s professed desire for animal welfare products and their actual purchasing patterns?
  • What could be done to help close this ‘value-action’ gap? 

Our approach used a ‘two-pronged’ methodology, combining discussion groups recruited in accordance with Defra’s segmentation model with groups explicitly recruited according to respondents’ claimed animal welfare purchasing behaviours. It concluded with a workshop allowing Defra to test early findings with industry stakeholders in order to better understand the policy options available.

The research had the following phases:

  • Brief literature review: This phase covered analysis of the results of Defra’s existing survey data to identify the optimal segments for inclusion in the next phase.
  • Initial round of four focus groups: These groups, recruited according to Defra's segmentation model explored assumptions regarding attitudes to animal welfare products from different angles so as to give a clearer perspective on over-claiming. Exercises included ranking tasks in order to establish the importance of animal welfare against other considerations (both sustainability related and others such as price) and exercises exploring the characteristics respondents see as being key to animal welfare and how this influences their attitudes, motivations and barriers to buying higher welfare products.
  • A second round of six focus groups: This phase of the research allowed us to introduce some prospective labelling options, as well as probing respondents about other potential interventions designed to overcome the barriers identified during the earlier phases (as well as continuing to probe these motivations and barriers).
  • Analysis and reporting: Brainstorming, analysing, drafting and editorial.
  • Stakeholder workshop: We arranged a workshop with up to 30 key industry stakeholders to feed back and discuss the findings from the previous phases, focusing in particular on the practical measures that could be taken by industry to help overcome barriers to increasing purchases of higher welfare products, and the potential obstacles within the industry that have prevented those steps being taken to date.

Findings of the research will be used to develop policy options and inform EU discussions on the best approach to increase consumption of higher welfare food products. The report is available for download using the link on the right (underneath the project team).

Note: For this research project Brook Lyndhurst has partnered up with BIO Intelligence Service, a European leader in developing environmental information on products.

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