Free range egg shoppers care more about taste than welfare

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 17th May 2017

Australian consumers who purchase free-range eggs are more concerned about the taste of their eggs than the welfare of the chickens a new study has found.

Conducted by University of Adelaide researchers, the study discovered the most often reported motivations for buying free-range are the belief these eggs are ‘better quality’, more nutritious, safer to eat and allow them to avoid “industrialised” food.

Study participants described cage-egg production as “cruel” but did not tend to emphasis welfare as a critical reason for their purchase decision.

Surveyed participants however believe free-range chickens are “happier” and hence produce better quality eggs.

Inconsistency with meat product

The researchers also found that consumers who purchase free-range eggs do not necessarily also purchase meat products making ethical claims. This was partly attributed to consumers believing they only had to pay a small amount extra for free range eggs, whereas “ethical meat” was far costlier.

Study focus

The study was based off focus groups and shopping mall interviews conducted with 73 participants of mixed age and gender.

Lead researcher, Dr Heather Bray, said taste and quality are strong motivations for purchasing and this may be why people are prepared to pay more.

“More importantly, these findings suggest consumers think about animal welfare in a much broader way than we previously thought, and in particular they believe that better welfare is connected to a better quality product,” she said.

The study has been published online today by the Anthrozoos journal.

Australia’s mandatory free-range egg standards

In March 2016, Australia introduced mandatory free-range egg standards, defining free-range eggs as those coming from farms that have 10, 000 birds per hectare or less. The birds must also have ‘meaningful access’ to outdoor space.

Australian consumer advocacy group, CHOICE, has however been advocating against the standard since its introduction, saying the definition of free-range should only 1, 500 birds per hectare or less.


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