There appears to be a disconnect between consumer voting behavior and consumption behavior, Glynn Tonser, assistant professor of economics at Kansas State University, told AgriTalk radio host Mike Adams on Thursday.
A study recently completed by Tonser and his associate Christopher Wolf was to gauge consumer interest in animal-welfare labeling. The study was done with data collected in October and November 2008, around the time of Proposition 2 vote in California.
“We wanted to see what kind of support there might be for mandatory labeling of animal-welfare issues, namely housing practices on pork and egg products,” says Tonser.
When consumers were placed in a “quick response” kind of setting, 62 percent said they would support mandatory labeling, specific to pork and egg products. The mandatory labeling would indicate if pork products came from farms with gestation crates and egg products from farms that used laying hen cages.
Support of mandatory animal-welfare labeling dwindles rather quickly when you put consumers in a situation where pork or egg prices increase; 44 percent reversed their support, notes Tonser.
Consumer support for animal-welfare labeling and willingness to pay for housing are not the same thing, he explains. This disconnect exists because consumers might not recognize the cost implication of supporting a measure, such as mandatory animal-welfare labeling. In a voting setting, political influence or pressure can influence decisions compared to prices in the grocery store.
For example, cage-free eggs are available in the marketplace, yet less than 4 percent of the eggs purchased in the U.S. are cage-free. However, anytime cage-free comes up on a ballot measure it receives fairly wide support. “This is an example of the disconnect between voting support and exercising consumption behavior,” explains Tonser.