Find out how you can keep up with customer demands in animal husbandry, and how you can profit from these changes...
Over recent decades, the growth in social media has opened public eyes to cruel practices within animal husbandry. Videos and photographs of tortured and fearful animals have stormed the internet, changing peoples’ perspectives.
With this rise in awareness has come a subsequent rise in vegetarianism, veganism, and flexitarianism. In fact, in the US alone, there has been a 600 percent increase in vegans between 2014 and 2017, most of whom have done so for ethical reasons.
Although the majority of people still consume meat and dairy regularly, customers are making ever-conscious moral decisions with their purchasing patterns. In order to keep up with these changes, it’s important that farmers make every effort to comply with these standards.
The question is, are these important changes profitable within the farming industry? We, at the Farm Business Innovation Show, have crunched the stats, to make the decision a little easier...
What is Animal Welfare?
Animal welfare encompasses a broad range of aims, but EU regulations have put it down to five essential “freedoms” that every sentient being should be entitled to. These include:
- The freedom from hunger and thirst, with the ready availability of sustenance to ensure appropriate health and well-being.
- The freedom to experience comfort within living quarters, ensuring enough space and shelter is provided.
- The freedom from pain, disease, and injury by providing ready access to veterinary services, and rapid diagnosis and prevention.
- The freedom to express normal animal behaviour, including forming relationships and bonds with one another, as well as the ability to graze and run around, with sufficient space and proper facilities.
- The freedom from fear and mental suffering, by avoiding unnecessary distress and ensuring conditions are adequate.
Having said all this, despite EU regulations, the farm industry still flies under the radar, exhibiting animal cruelty left, right, and centre! Male chicks and calves are senselessly murdered, hens are caged, pregnant sows are confined to tiny pens - the list of indecencies goes on.
Due to the huge quantity of farming institutions in the UK, it’s simply impossible for Defra to regulate every single one. That said, when quality-control checks are carried out, it can be pretty easy for standards to be faked. Faeces is swept away, and dead piglets are removed from sight.
The harsh reality is that many farming institutions view these cruel methods as the most profitable. By cutting costs on animal living conditions and slaughter methods, it seems only natural that this would be the case.
However, we think there are more ethical ways for meat and dairy farms to run, which don’t reduce profits. But how?
Limit Lameness, Limit Losses
Oftentimes, it is the perceived problems with improving animal welfare which might halt the development of farmer support. Some worry that, by improving conditions, production costs will go through the roof.
That said, alongside inhumane living conditions, including confined spaces and unhygienic surroundings, comes increased rates of disease, mastitis, and lameness. By boosting animal welfare, and reducing cases of disease, these improvements will end up paying for themselves in the future.
Recent insight has actually shown that maintaining low levels of disease is extremely important for the longevity of food production. Changes like this will lead to reduced veterinary costs due to higher mortality rates, better growth rates, and higher feed conversion rates. By keeping infectious diseases at bay, we could ultimately prevent antibiotic resistance, reducing the spread of infectious, and potentially deadly, diseases that could wipe out livestock.
Going hand-in-hand with this is that, with improved conditions will come improved livestock productivity. The happier and healthier the animals, the more likely they are to produce lots of great quality products that people want!
Without the correct information, it may seem as though improving animal welfare will cost a bomb. That said, in the long-run, it should end up reducing costs, overall. Indeed, raising animals humanely can utilise less feed, water, and fuel than intensive farming, not just reducing costs, but pollution too!
What’s more, it doesn’t take a lot to improve animal welfare. Maintaining a clean environment, and gentler handling of animals can do wonders, leading to higher mortality rates. Simply does it.
Improve Profit Margins
If done right, improved animal welfare practices could even boost profit margins overall! Firstly, they’ll lead to better quality products, which customers may choose to favour, and pay more for.
A perfect example of this is the banning of gestation stalls for pigmeat production in the UK, which increased production costs by 5 percent. This inflation only required a 1 percent increase in retail price - not a lot in the grand scheme of things.
But how can we get customers to spend that extra cash?
Well, statistics dictate that the main reason people go vegan is ethical concerns, which comes far higher in the scale than environmental and health factors. 96% of EU citizens agreed we have an obligation to ensure the welfare of our animals. So, with the correct packaging pointing out the improvement in welfare compared to other brands, customers will often pay the extra cost to put their moral foot forward.
We can see this most clearly in the purchasing of free-range eggs in comparison to caged eggs. Ultimately, people are more inclined to pay higher costs for egg products produced with the animals in mind.
They say be cruel to be kind, but shouldn’t we just be kind...
It’s all about customer choice. Through widespread improvement of education on the meat and dairy industries, the public can more accurately tailor their purchases to fit their moral compass. By giving them an insight, and then giving them a choice of animal welfare products, we could help to put kindness first.