2013-05-20   facebook twitter rss
Share Your Welfare Stories to Attract Consumer Support, Farmers Told

Britain’s pig and poultry producers must be braver in talking about what happens on their farms if consumers are to be driven to buy more high-welfare, homegrown food.

A distinguished panel of experts at Pig & Poultry LIVE, the innovative conference tackling the key issues affecting the sectors, said consumers had mixed understanding of what animal welfare really meant. And if shopping habits were to change, perceptions of animal welfare on British farms needed to improve.

NFU President Peter Kendall

NFU President Peter Kendall

Addressing an audience of more than 650 people at the expanded event at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, on Wednesday (15 May) speakers including NFU President Peter Kendall urged farmers to engage with consumers and explain how their animals are reared.

“Animal welfare is a difficult, emotive debate and we need to have an honest discussion if we are going to give consumers a reason to pick British food,” he said.

“Welfare is all about perception and that’s why we need to engage with our customer.

Without that discussion, the danger is UK producers are forced to have higher standards through regulation, but retailers import cheaper foods from elsewhere.”

David Evans, Head of Agriculture at supermarket Morrisons, said it was important that messages around welfare were simplified so consumers had a better understanding about the food they were choosing to buy.

“Consumer perception is everything and expecting them to have a detailed understanding of welfare or expecting them to pay a premium for it when they don't really know where food comes from is too far,” he told delegates.

“Changing consumer attitudes is a challenge and if you want to get them to understand it can only be done with a simple message.”

With an increased interest in traceability and provenance in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, now was the perfect opportunity for farmers to find ways to talk to consumers, gain their trust and boost sales of British food, delegates were also told.

“Many people don’t want to know the details of production, so instead we should be talking about trust,” said Sandra Edwards, Professor of Agriculture at Newcastle University.

“I would like to see us go back to consumers trusting farmers to have the best knowledge about what is good for the animals, but that trust can only be based on the information they receive.”

The issue of welfare was tackled at the one-day Royal Agricultural Society of England event, run in partnership with ABN, after producers at previous pig and
poultry events identified it as the top challenge facing their sector.

The other working session at the event addressed the issue of attracting and retaining high-calibre staff to work on pig and poultry enterprises.

Pig & Poultry Live

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