The Economic Case for the New Animal Welfare Legislation

17 Mar 2023
Yesterday the Intergroup discussed with experts from the Impact Institute and Wageningen University the true cost of higher animal welfare standards as well as labelling and its impact on consumer behaviour.

Andrea Rusman and Leanne Heuberger from the Impact Institute presented their findings of the report on the True Costs of Producing and Consuming Animal Sourced Food in the EU. The report compares the market price of meat, eggs and dairy produced under current animal welfare rules with the ‘hidden’ external costs on our health and the environment. It also seeks to translate these costs into Euro and project future costs under a scenario with improved animal welfare.

The quantified true costs of animal sourced food production in the EU is estimated at € 1575 billion, which is 7.5 times larger than its economic market value. The true cost takes into account all social and environmental costs, which gives us a much more holistic understanding of the true economic cost. You can access their presentation here.

MEP Petras Austrevicius raised the question of food security noting that of course we need good quality food but we also need quantity. Therefore, he asked to what extent the true price method could impact food security. 

The True Price Method is based on global institutions for example the OECD guiding principles. In order to maintain food security a dietary shift is needed. 100 grams of chicken needs 109 grams of soy feed. If we shift our diets towards more plant based food, we can maintain food security. 

Dr Marcel Kornelis gave a very insightful presentation on labelling and other interventions that influence consumer behaviour. Mr Kornelis carried out a study on the EU legislation on Animal Welfare and the resulting activities that may affect consumer choices. He highlighted the knowledge gap between consumers and how animal products are produced, and pointed out that in order to influence consumer behaviour, it would be necessary to make the production process more tangible. 

MEP Caroline Roose echoed his sentiment, noting that most consumers are not well enough informed on how livestock is kept. She also made reference to the fact that the organic label doesn’t include any information on animal welfare. According to Roose the consumer wants more animal friendly meat, but doesn’t have the opportunity to obtain the relevant information. 

Mr Kornelis noted that at the end of the day the consumer will have to make a choice and whatever information on a label that is available to them, should be easily understandable and straightforward. Consumers are easily confused when presented with too much information. 

Labelling is only one way in which consumers' choices are influenced. In order to achieve a bigger impact on consumer behaviour other areas such as the context in which a consumer purchases food or informative campaigns can have a stronger influence on changing the choices we make and therefore the impact we have on the environment and animal welfare.