According to research by Teagasc, farm-level production practices are becoming increasingly important in determining Irish consumers’ assessment of meat quality, replacing previous influences such as the appearance of meat or the country of origin of the product.
Lead author of the report, Dr Áine Regan in Teagasc’s Department of Agri-food Business and Spatial Analysis, said: “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 of respondents also revealed they would pay more for meat produced with good animal welfare standards.
According to the research, this indicated that consumers were not just supportive of animal welfare from a ‘concerned citizen’ perspective; rather, they considered these dimensions as attractive product attributes that influenced their assessments of meat quality and were likely to influence their purchasing decisions.
Regan added: “As this study shows, the consumer’s definition of ‘quality’ is constantly being re-evaluated and redefined. This has important implications for Quality Assurance schemes and highlights the need for continuous development of these schemes to align with consumers’ needs and values.
“Furthermore, as new attributes become increasingly prioritised by the consumer, it may become apparent that new forms of engagement and communication will be needed. For example, for issues related to animal welfare, public engagement mechanisms that engage and empower the consumer and that reconnect consumers directly with primary producers are likely to be important.”