Meat eaters looking for more and more 'quality' assurances
Farm-level production practices are becoming increasingly important in determining Irish consumers’ assessments of meat quality, new research shows.
Organic, free-range, high animal welfare standards, and no hormones or antibiotics; a recent study from Teagasc shows that an appetite for these farm-level production practices is evident amongst a growing segment of Irish meat eaters.
In the past, perceptions of meat quality have largely been influenced by factors such as the appearance of meat or the country of origin of the meat product. Now, however, other factors are becoming increasingly important in also determining consumers’ judgements.
A recent study by Teagasc published in the Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research has highlighted how consumer perceptions are becoming increasingly sensitive to how animals are produced. How animals are reared (e.g. organic and free-range farming) and how animals are farmed (e.g. animal welfare, hormone and antibiotic usage) are important in determining consumers’ perceptions of the quality of the meat produced.
As part of a wider international study into meat consumer trends, 251 consumers across the Republic of Ireland were surveyed about their habits, behaviours, beliefs and perceptions when it comes to purchasing and consuming meat.
Consumers in this study were asked about the relationship between meat quality and four different farm-level production practices: organic farming, free range farming, maintaining high animal welfare standards, and keeping animals free from hormone/antibiotic treatment.
According to lead author, Dr Áine Regan in Teagasc’s Department of Agri-food Business and Spatial Analysis: “Far from being a niche group in the sample, the study identified that around a third of the study sample could be grouped into a segment of consumers who placed a high priority on the link between these four production practices and meat quality”.
The study also found that not only do a significant number of consumers perceive better quality meat when assured of humane animal treatment, a sizeable number also reveal an intention to pay more for meat produced with good animal welfare standards.