Getting to the meat of the matter: social and economic issues in animal welfare in Australia’s livestock industries


Popular media and commercial intelligence suggest that Australian consumers are increasingly alarmed about animal welfare in Australia’s livestock industries. Recent media reports have focused on practices that some consumers believe are unethical such as sow stalls, caged hens, bobby calves, and live export of beef cattle and sheep. As a result, the Australian livestock industries are concerned about industry impacts and are using marketing strategies, including labelling, to communicate their animal welfare values and standards to consumers. Little is known about whether these strategies alleviate or exacerbate concerns, or if consumers understand the additional information. Although industry groups engage in scientific research on animal welfare (such as animal stress), information is limited on how this research affects commercial practices or is best communicated to retailers and consumers. The food industry continues to refine best-practice standards for animal management; however these changes remain largely invisible to Australian consumers. No public information is available on the economic effects of practice change along the value chain, particularly the impact on consumer purchasing behaviours.

Project objectives

This project aims to document understandings of animal welfare along the animal production value chain in Australia, determine how these perceptions influence both consumer and industry behaviours, and provide insight on how to foster better alignment between industry practices and consumer demands.

Specific objectives include:

  • Assessing Australian consumer awareness, knowledge, and understandings of animal welfare in the livestock industries;
  • Analysing the drivers of these perceptions, how they are socially and culturally constructed, and on what underlying values, experiences, and evidence they are based, including sources of information;
  • Determining the effects that consumer perceptions have on domestic purchasing behaviours, including willingness to pay, given other values which enter into these decisions (e.g., value for money, quality, convenience, taste);
  • Exploring Australian livestock producer, processor, and retailer perceptions of animal welfare and consumer concerns about animal welfare, and attitudes toward and drivers of potential changes in future practices;
  • Examining ways in which producers, processors, retailers, and consumers can best communicate their values and concerns regarding animal welfare to each other, and better align them; and
  • Establishing best-practice standards with regard to industry communication to consumers about animal welfare.

Project outputs

Umberger, W.J. “Demand for Animal Welfare and Ethical Attributes in Meat: What do consumers really value?” invited Keynote speech at “Animal Production 2018: Fostering innovation through the value chain” Conference in Wagga Wagga, NSW. 2 July 2018.

Umberger, W.J. “Consumer demands & animal welfare: What do consumers really want?” invited Keynote speech at the Better Beef Conference, Agriculture Victoria in Bendigo, VIC, 26 June 2018.

Umberger, W.J. “Animal Welfare, Present and Future: Consumer Perspective” invited panel presentation at the 2018 Poultry Information Exchange Conference (PIX/AMC 2018). Gold Coast, QLD. 5 June, 2018.

Malek, L., Umberger, W.J., and Rolfe, J.  2018. "Segmentation of Australian meat consumers on the basis of attitudes regarding farm animal welfare and the environmental impact of meat production.” Animal Production Science.  58: 424-434.

Malek L., Windle J., Umberger W.J., Rolfe, J., Anders S. (2016) "Consumer valuation and attitudes towards farm animal welfare claims", Proceedings of the 31st Biennial Conference of the Australian Society of Animal Production, Adelaide, 4-7 July 2016.

Bray H., Buddle E.A., Ankeny R.A. (2016) "Consumers link ‘better’ farm animal welfare with better quality products", Proceedings of the 31st Biennial Conference of the Australian Society of Animal Production, Adelaide, 4-7 July 2016.

Image: Example choice set from the national online survey

Project partners

Industry partners:


ARC Linkage (ARC LP130100149), 2014-2017


GFAR researchers involved in this project:

Tagged in Projects:Food policy, Projects:Healthy societies, Completed projects