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Pigs in an animal welfare stable: better husbandry costs money

Photo: Marijan Murat / dpa

The farmers are protesting on the streets - and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) is calling for an animal welfare tax that would make meat more expensive in the future.

But what do consumers want?

In a current and representative survey by the consumer protection organization BEUC, more than half of those surveyed said they support the welfare of farm animals, even if it would increase food prices.

88.5 percent support raising animal husbandry standards.

The survey asked consumers from eight EU countries (Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) about their meat consumption and their attitude towards animal welfare.

It became clear what a big role meat still plays in the diet of most Europeans.

Only 2 percent of those surveyed described themselves as vegetarians, one percent as vegans and another two percent as so-called pescatarians, who eat fish but not meat.

But the vast majority eat meat, 18 percent say they eat it every day.

In Hungary, 54 percent of those surveyed said they eat meat at least five times a week (for comparison: in Germany only around a third said this).

The preferences for individual types of meat vary from country to country: On average in all countries examined, poultry meat is at the top: around two thirds of all respondents eat this at least once a week.

Beef is eaten more often than pork, according to the survey.

61 percent would reduce their meat consumption

Meat consumption is now increasingly accompanied by the desire for the animals to be well.

Around 84 percent of those surveyed said that the welfare of farm animals was important to them and for 41 percent it was even very important.

Consumers want to know under what conditions farm animals are kept, says Ramona Pop, board member of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv).

"They are willing to spend more money on food if it has been produced in a more animal-friendly manner."

This is also reflected in the study: In four countries (Germany, Sweden, Italy and Hungary), more than a third of those surveyed said they would pay over 5 percent more for products if they were produced under higher animal welfare standards.

In Spain only 23 percent said that.

Overall, such surveys should be interpreted with caution because expressions of intent often differ from people's actual behavior.

According to the study, many people cannot afford to eat meat regularly anyway.

If prices continue to rise, almost three quarters (74 percent) would definitely or probably switch to cheaper types of meat, i.e. eat poultry instead of beef.

Around 61 percent would reduce their meat consumption overall.

The Federal Association of Consumer Organizations concluded from the study that the majority of people want better animal husbandry.

“The federal government must significantly raise animal husbandry standards,” said vzbv boss Pop.

Higher standards are an important step towards sustainable animal husbandry.