What are the reasons that shoppers may prefer free-range chicken eggs over eggs from caged hens? This is the question that researchers at the University of Adelaide answer in a new study on free-range eggs published in the journal Anthrozoös, the journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology.
In order to collect data for their study, the researchers conducted focus groups and interviewed 73 participants of mixed age and gender. After compiling their responses, they then categorized the different reasons that individuals gave for why they choose one egg type over the other.
The most common motivations for purchasing free-range eggs were that they were viewed as being higher quality, more nutritious, and safer to eat. Also, participants emphasized trying to avoid “industrialized” food.
Interestingly, although many participants described caged-egg farming as “cruel,” they did not often point to animal welfare reasons as paramount in their egg-purchasing decisions. Rather, a number of people thought that free-range chickens might be “happier,” and thus create a better quality egg. Researchers say this finding shows consumers are more likely to buy a product if it is both “ethical” and assumed to be of higher quality – not just ethical reasons alone.
“Taste and quality are strong motivations for purchasing and may be part of the reason why people are prepared to pay a higher price,” says lead author Heather Bray of the University of Adelaide. “More importantly these findings suggest that consumers think about animal welfare in a much broader way than we previously thought, and in particular they believe that better welfare is connected to a better quality product.”
The results of the study also showed that there is a high level of awareness among participants for caged-egg production, compared to other types of animal farming. Furthermore, despite their unease at supporting caged-egg farming, participants who bought free-range or cage-free eggs did not necessarily also buy their meat in the same ethical scope. This was due to the price difference between egg types being much smaller than those between different sources of meat.
Moving forward, the authors believe more research can be done to help further understanding of consumer motivations for purchasing products with ethical production claims. Further information could lead to more purposeful production methods or product labeling that is directed at attracting consumers. In the meantime, feel free to join the few participants of the study who said they produced their own free-range eggs by keeping their own hens. They make great pets and an even better breakfast.
Source: Taylor & Francis Group