Consumer perceptions of egg-laying hen housing systems

Consumer perceptions of egg-laying hen housing systems ABSTRACT The egg industry has transitioned, or is in the process of transitioning, from conventional cages to alternative hen housing systems in response to legal changes in many states across the United States (US). However, consumers find it is increasingly difficult to understand the details behind those labels and specific attributes conveyed. There are multiple hen housing options with a wide range of costs and impacts on hens, workers, and the environment. This research furthers the understanding of US public perceptions and attitudes related to hen housing systems and corresponding animal welfare, worker, economic, and environmental effects. Results reveal that the US public perceives cage-free aviaries as achieving essentially the same positive impact on hen health and stress, hen behavior, and environmental impact as free-range systems when compared to conventional cage systems. The information provided can assist industry, marketing, and policy decisions with respect to hen housing. INTRODUCTION Consumers in the United States (US) have increasingly desired information about how their food is produced and what effects those practices have on animal welfare and environmental sustainability (Tonsor et al., 2009; Norwood and Lusk, 2011; Ellison et al., 2017). High profile legally mandated changes to animal production systems, such as ballot initiatives (e.g., California's Proposition 2; Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, 2008) and legislation (e.g., Michigan Public Act 0117, 2009 and State of Florida Amendment 10, 2002), have had the effect of limiting practices for confining egg laying hens. Additionally, a 2010 law passed in California requires any incoming eggs or meat to be produced under the same practice constraints affecting producers across the country that supply California markets (California Assembly Bill 1437, 2010). Legal avenues are not the only means for mandating agricultural production practice changes. Markets can also facilitate or force change as retailers, grocers, and restaurants move to sourcing from producers who follow a set of pre-determined welfare-related practices. For example, Walmart, Tyson Foods, and Perdue Farms all offer antibiotic-free animal products (Kesmodel et al., 2014). In 2015, McDonalds announced they would begin using eggs that were produced in cage-free production systems (Strom, 2015). It has been hypothesized other fast food restaurants and ready-made products would follow suit (Strom, 2015). By the end of April 2016, 14 of the 15 top grocery chains in the US had developed timelines for transitioning entirely to cage-free eggs (Shields et al., 2017). Hen housing system requirements to achieve legal or market standards are generally vague—specifying, for example, that hens must be able to spread their wings and turn around without touching each other (Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, 2008)—there are multiple potential systems that might be adopted to meet these requirements. With a diversity of production practices and market preferences for animal welfare and environmental attributes, it may be difficult for egg producers to assess the situation and make wise adjustments and investments. As Tonsor et al. (2009, p. 713) point out, “given this lack of concrete definitions and the inherent range of public perceptions…it is hardly surprising that opinions vary regarding acceptability of current production practices.” As a result of this disconnect between consumers and food, purchasing decisions are largely made on the perceived value of an attribute rather than first-hand exposure to production systems. Although there are many potential hen housing systems, there is no system that dominates when all production, environmental, and welfare aspects are considered. In a 2011 study, Lay et al. found no single superior housing system and concluded the right combination of housing design, breed, rearing conditions, and management was essential to optimize hen welfare and productivity (Lay et al., 2011). Blatchford et al. (2016) documented tradeoffs between hen housing systems using a long-term hen housing study conducted by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) (CSES, 2015). Although these reports do an excellent job of documenting the myriad effects of the hen housing systems, there has yet to be a systematic cross referencing of the welfare, environmental, and worker effects with their resulting public perception and preferences. Heng et al. (2013, p. 424) conducted a similar survey using descriptions of laying hen activities and also found that “individuals had different perceptions about how various farming practices may affect the hens’ welfare.” As legislation, public ballot initiatives, and retailer decisions continue to drive agriculture and animal welfare policy, it is critical to align documented welfare conditions with the values perceived by the public and resulting product demand. Modern, commercial egg production is capital intensive with large facilities which require long-term investments with little salvage value. They are not traditionally designed to be flexible in terms of layout or function. In addition to the investment costs to build an alternative to conventional hen housing, operational costs change if different (more) labor, feed, utilities, and other costs are required to manage the new system. For example, research has found that feed use per dozen eggs is considerably higher in non-cage systems than in conventional cage systems (Sumner et al., 2010). Further, productivity changes, mortality, and morbidity are affected by the housing system. Cannibalistic behavior and environmental microbial communities are also greater in enhanced cages and cage-free aviary systems compared to conventional cage systems (CSES, 2015). Eggs laid outside the nest box in cage-free aviary systems lead to more uncollectable, downgraded, or unmarketable eggs (Matthews and Sumner, 2015). Matthews and Sumner (2015) concluded that, relative to conventional cages, enriched cage systems have 4% higher operating costs (due to higher labor costs) and 13% higher costs when capital costs were included. Cage-free aviaries have 23% higher operating costs due to higher pullet and labor costs as well as 36% higher total costs when capital costs are included relative to conventional cages (Matthews and Sumner, 2015). Thus, although there may be some hen behavioral benefits from alternative housing systems, there is no “free lunch” here as the cost of production will increase and these systems affect environmental and worker health outcomes. Because of increased scrutiny of production practices and the potential effect on long-term investment, it is critical that US egg producers be aware of public perceptions. With knowledge of these perceptions and attitudes, egg producers can make informed decisions about production practices used on their farms while enhancing public trust and maintaining their social license. This research assesses US public attitudes and perceptions regarding hen housing systems to provide a benchmark for discussion and monitoring. MATERIALS AND METHODS Defining hen housing systems Choosing the “optimal” or preferred hen housing system is not obvious as there are tradeoffs across many dimensions including productivity, cost, welfare, and environmental impacts with each alternative. As Swanson et al. (2011, P. 2113) point out, “Animal welfare assessment is truly a wicked problem.” The authors describe the diversity of animal welfare assessments that can draw from many fields including animal behavior, animal production, physiology, genetics, and veterinary medicine (Swanson et al., 2011). In another analysis of hen housing systems, Dikmen et al. (2016) described the diversity of findings that exist when it comes to animal welfare and egg production. In their own findings, Dikmen et al. described the trade-offs between systems with no single superior housing type across animal welfare and egg production categories. To ensure an accurate assessment that is balanced across disciplines, we utilized a 4-yr study conducted by the CSES (CSES, 2015). The hen housing descriptions from CSES are described as follows: Conventional cage housing: Conventional cage housing has cages housing 4 to 9 hens. The approximate space per hen is 80 square inches. There may be thousands of cages per house, often housing 200,000 hens in each building. Enriched colony housing: Enriched colony systems house 60 to 250 hens in more open cages that are larger and equipped with perches, nesting areas, and material to facilitate foraging and dust bathing. The approximate space per hen is 116 square inches. These systems can house 100,000 or more hens in each building. Cage-free aviary housing: Cage-free aviary systems allow hens to roam throughout various sized sections of a building. Each section contains perches, nesting areas, and dust-bathing material. There can be 80,000 or more hens per building. The approximate space per hen is 144 square inches. Although the CSES evaluated housing systems using many attributes, for this analysis these attributes were summarized in 7 categories to avoid survey fatigue and make the terms more recognizable to the general public. The following 7 summary categories were used: hen health and stress, hen behavior, environmental impact, natural resource use efficiency, worker health and safety, food safety, and egg quality. Although the CSES did not include free-range housing systems in their study, it was included in our survey. To be considered free-range or free-roaming according to the USDA, “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside” (USDA, 2015). The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines free-range as follows: “the key feature of free-range housing is access to an outdoor area during the day” (AVMA, 2012, p. 3). Given the broadness of this definition and the vast diversity in free-range systems, it was difficult to generalize the precise effects of the free-range system. To summarize the free-range housing system attributes, we utilized a study conducted by the AVMA (AVMA, 2008). Table 1 describes the specific attributes from both the CSES and AVMA that were aggregated to generate the 7 more general categories utilized in the survey. The CSES scores were used for enriched colony and cage-free aviary, whereas AVMA scores were used for free-range. The CSES measurements used a rating scale from +4 to–4 for each of their attributes, with conventional cage housing as a reference point (score of 0) against which the other housing types are compared. For example, a score of +4 indicated that there was an “exceptionally better” effect of the housing type, relative to conventional housing, for that specific attribute. Similarly, a score of –4 indicated that the housing type performed “exceptionally worse” for that attribute as compared to conventional cage housing. A score of 0 represented no difference between the conventional cage and the housing type in question with regard to the specific attribute of interest. For the free-range housing, the AVMA used a good, medium, and poor scale to score their attributes as opposed to a baseline conventional cage comparison. Those rankings were assigned 0, 1, and –1 to create a net impact by category consistent with the CSES method. Table 1. CSES and AVMA attribute aggregation. Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Sources: Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Table 1. CSES and AVMA attribute aggregation. Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Sources: Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Table 2 summarizes the documented impact of shifting from conventional to each of the other housing types based on CSES and AVMA research. For example, in order to compute the net environmental impact of moving from a conventional cage to enriched colony and cage-free aviary (Table 2), the scores for the following attributes from CSES were summed: ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, and particulate matter emissions (Table 1). In Table 2, those attributes assigned a negative impact had attribute scores that summed to less than zero, those assigned a positive impact had attribute scores that summed to greater than zero, and those assigned no impact had attribute scores that summed to zero. The same method was used for all attributes and housing types. Those assigned “not applicable” for the change from conventional to free-range were attributes that were not studied or could not be studied given the diversity of free-range operations. Table 2. Documented impacts of hen housing systems.1 Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact 1Impacts are relative to conventional cage housing systems. Sources: Adapted by authors from Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Table 2. Documented impacts of hen housing systems.1 Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact 1Impacts are relative to conventional cage housing systems. Sources: Adapted by authors from Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Survey of US public A nationally representative online survey, developed and programmed by a team of researchers at Michigan State University and Purdue University, was administered over the course of 2 wks in April 2017 to collect information about US public perceptions of hen housing types and laying hen welfare. The survey was anonymous and approved by both Michigan State University and Purdue University Human Research Protection Programs. Survey respondents were contacted through Lightspeed GMI, which maintains an opt-in panel of potential respondents. The survey was hosted using the online platform Qualtrics, and a system of quotas within Qualtrics based on US Census categories were used to facilitate obtaining a representative sample. After a series of questions about sociodemographics, factors related to purchasing eggs, and general knowledge of egg labeling and egg production, respondents were asked what effects they expected a switch from conventional hen housing to each of the housing types (i.e., enriched colony or cage-free aviary) would have on hen welfare, productivity, behavior, worker health, and environmental attributes. The survey did not provide information about each of the housing types so the responses reflected the existing respondent perceptions. This method reflects the shopping experience where eggs are labeled in regard to the system used but the systems are not described further. Respondents may have been, or believed they were, familiar with the laying hen housing systems. Accurate knowledge is not required to make egg purchasing decisions—or vote on ballot initiatives—but perceptions are crucial to maintaining the social license to produce. RESULTS A total of 2813 completed surveys were collected. Table 3 displays summary statistics for the survey respondents and compares them to the US Census. As the table reveals, the sample closely matched the US population with respect to gender, age, income, and region of residence. Table 3. Summary statistics. Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Sources: Author survey and US Census Bureau (2016). View Large Table 3. Summary statistics. Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Sources: Author survey and US Census Bureau (2016). View Large The majority of respondents were the primary shopper in the household making their views of egg housing practices particularly relevant for marketing eggs (Table 4). Eighty-five percent of respondents consumed eggs every week and only 3.5% did not consume eggs. Finally, when asked what the most important reason for not making an egg purchase, only 6.8% of respondents said that it would be due to factors associated with animal welfare whereas the most common reason was price with 42% of respondents (Table 4). Table 4. Egg shopping decisions. Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 View Large Table 4. Egg shopping decisions. Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 View Large When asked to self-assess knowledge of egg production practices and egg labels (Table 5), respondents perceived a greater knowledge of the labels than the production practices, indicating a disconnect between label and production practice in regard to consumer understanding of the housing system they prefer. Given that the average US consumer is exposed to egg labels more frequently than they are exposed to laying hen facilities, this result makes sense. However, in the absence of greater information, consumers may infer positive or negative impacts back to the production system based on their perceived understanding of the label. Table 5. Self-evaluated knowledge of egg production practices and labels. Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 View Large Table 5. Self-evaluated knowledge of egg production practices and labels. Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 View Large When queried about the impact of moving to alternative housing systems from conventional cages, respondents overwhelmingly chose free-range as the superior housing type. The majority described a shift to free-range (from conventional) as having a positive impact on all attributes including cost of production (note: positive impact on cost of production signifies the cost of production is less expensive as that is a positive change from the consumer's perspective) (Table 6). To interpret Table 6, for example 5.62% of respondents responded that going from conventional to free-range would have a negative impact on hen health and stress. Interestingly, there was little difference between the perceived benefits of shifting from conventional to free-range vs. the perceived benefits of shifting from conventional to cage-free aviary. On average across the 7 categories there was only a 2.7% increase in the number of respondents who indicated a positive impact when shifting to free-range vs. a positive impact when shifting to cage-free aviary. There are 2 possibilities for this result: respondents who perceived a positive impact for cage-free aviary also perceived a positive impact for free-range but with a differential positive impact that was undetectable given the format of the question, or the respondents basically did not differentiate between cage-free aviary and free-range with respect to the factors examined. Table 6. Perceived impact of alternative hen housing systems relative to conventional housing (percent of respondents).1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 1To interpret Table 6, for example 5.62% of respondents responded that going from conventional to free-range would have a negative impact on hen health and stress. View Large Table 6. Perceived impact of alternative hen housing systems relative to conventional housing (percent of respondents).1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 1To interpret Table 6, for example 5.62% of respondents responded that going from conventional to free-range would have a negative impact on hen health and stress. View Large Combining the documented impacts (Table 2) with the public response (Table 6) a very low percentage of respondents correctly identified the true impact of hen housing (Table 7). Most respondents assumed cage-free aviary and free-range housing systems were superior for all attributes. As a result, the welfare attribute that was most correctly understood was “hen behavior,” because it is the lone attribute that was rated as truly superior for those housing types. The negative impacts of those housing types, such as increased cannibalism, higher mortality rates, and lower worker health and safety, are not well understood by the public as indicated by the very low percentage of respondents who were correct in assessing the true impacts of a shift from conventional housing (Table 7). Table 7. Percent of “correct” respondent perceptions of housing systems.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 1Values in table represent the percentage of respondents who correctly understood the change in welfare of the stated attributes above when going from conventional housing to the other listed housing types. View Large Table 7. Percent of “correct” respondent perceptions of housing systems.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 1Values in table represent the percentage of respondents who correctly understood the change in welfare of the stated attributes above when going from conventional housing to the other listed housing types. View Large DISCUSSION Swanson et al. (2011) stressed that stakeholder input about sustainable egg supply is a critical component of setting future directions and goals for research, policy, and producer innovation. Stakeholder input is also a critical component for long-term industry investment. The technologies developed and implemented must be in line with the demands of the consumer and public expectations. Policy-makers and industry should work with consumer and public perceptions and preferences rather than imposing production practices, products, or systems. However, it is also critical that the industry work to better inform consumers of the true implications of production practices—in this case hen housing types. In this survey, the discordance between perceived benefits of a housing type and actual benefits of a housing type was clearly exposed. Few survey respondents understood the true implications of shifting hen housing systems. For example, consumers may be quite interested that hen cannibalism is a significantly greater issue in commercial cage-free aviaries than in conventional cages. Consumers may find it acceptable to trade increased environmental impact and inferior worker conditions for greater freedom of movement and access to natural laying hen activities but it should be an informed choice. As indicated by these results, the public has a higher perceived knowledge of labels than production practices. This is a potential indicator of a disconnect between label and production practice in regard to consumer understanding of the housing system they prefer, which may in part explain the discrepancies between expert opinion and public opinion with regard to animal welfare. Although consumers are exposed more often to egg labels than egg production practices, it is the production that dictates the label. In this era of increasing awareness of food production and animal welfare, it is important to close the gap between knowledge of labels and knowledge of the complete set of production methods that result in that label. The only way to effectively align consumer preferences with farm-level production methods is to have labels that are readily understood. If the American public has higher self-assessed knowledge of labels than of production practices, we might expect issues with understanding the animal welfare granted by specific labeling terms. When asking the general public about the tradeoff between environmental impacts of management practices, Heng et al. (2013, p. 425) found that 40% of the public was indifferent while “a greater percentage of respondents incorrectly believed that a management practice that contributes to a higher level of hen welfare also places a lower burden on environment.” Similarly, most respondents in this survey predicted positive welfare impacts and positive environmental impacts when shifting from the conventional system to the other forms of housing. Malone and Lusk (2016) found that after the California ban on battery cages the average price paid by Californians rose between $0.48 and $1.08/dozen eggs. The potential remains for other ballot initiatives or legislation across the US to further mandate changes in egg production practices. This is concerning for national food markets because as Tonsor and Wolf (2010, p. 420) point out, “this patchwork of adjustments across the country leads to a range of developing (at least short-run) comparative advantage disparities across states.” In this survey, respondents indicated price as the most important factor for not making an egg purchase, but also indicated a perceived positive impact of shifting to more expensive forms of hen housing. Conventional cage hen housing is prevalent for many reasons, it is the status quo, hen housing is a long-term investment, and consumers are price conscious, as indicated by survey respondents (Table 4). However, when confronted with a ballot initiative such as the battery cage ban addressed by Malone and Lusk (2016), price is removed from the decision process and is replaced by the perceived positive impact on animal welfare of shifting hen housing type. In order to align policy, industry expansion, and consumer values, it is critical that the industry continues to explore true impacts on animal welfare and effectively communicate those impacts to the public. CONCLUSION This research revealed that the US public perceives cage-free aviaries as achieving essentially the same positive impact on hen health and stress, hen behavior, environmental impact, and other important attributes as eggs produced in free-range systems. Most respondents did not recognize the potential for a negative impact on worker health and safety and hen health and stress from the transition from conventional cages to alternative housing systems. REFERENCES American Veterinary Medical Association . 2008 . AVMA issues – A Comparison of Cage and Non-Cage Systems for Housing Laying Hens. Accessed Sep. 2017. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Pages/AVMA-issues-A-Comparison-of-Cage-and-Non-Cage-Systems-for-Housing-Laying-Hens.aspx . American Veterinary Medical Association . 2012 . Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of Laying Hen Housing. Accessed Sep. 2017. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Pages/AVMA-issues-A-Comparison-of-Cage-and-Non-Cage-Systems-for-Housing-Laying-Hens.aspx . Blatchford R. A. , Fulton R. M. , Mench J. A. . 2016 . The utilization of the Welfare Quality® assessment for determining laying hen condition across three housing systems . J. Dairy Sci. 95 : 5892 – 5903 . Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) . 2015 . Final Research Results Report. Accessed Sep. 2017. http://www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org/final-results . California Assembly Bill 1437 . 2010 . Accessed Sep. 2017. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=200920100AB1437 . Dikmen B. Y. , İpek A. , Şahan Ü. , Petek M. , Sözcü A. . 2016 . Egg production and welfare of laying hens kept in different housing systems (conventional, enriched cage, and free range) . Poult. Sci. 95 : 1564 – 1572 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Ellison B. , Brooks K. , Mieno T. . 2017 . Which livestock production claims matter most to consumers? Agric. Hum. Values 34 : 819 – 831 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Heng Y. , Peterson H. H. , X Li . 2013 . Consumer attitudes toward farm-animal welfare: the case of laying hens . J. Agr. Resource Econ. 38 : 418 – 434 . Kesmodel D. , Bunge J. , McKay B. . 2014 . Meat companies go antibiotics-free as more consumers demand it. Wall Street Journal. Accessed Oct. 2017. http://www.wsj.com/articles/meat-companies-goantibiotics-free-as-more-consumers-demand-it-1415071802 . Lay D. C. Jr. , Fulton R. M. , Hester P. Y. , Karcher D. M. , Kjaer J. , Mench J. A. , Mullens B. A. , Newberry R. C. , Nicol C. J. , O'Sullivan N. P. , Porter R. E. . 2011 Hen welfare in different housing systems . Poult. Sci. 90 : 278 – 294 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Malone T. , Lusk J.L. . 2016 . Putting the chicken before the egg price: An ex post analysis of California's battery cage ban . J. Agr. Resource Econ. 41 : 518 . Matthews W. A. , Sumner D. A. . 2015 . Effects of housing system on the costs of commercial egg production . Poult. Sci. 94 : 552 – 557 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Michigan Public Act 117 . 2009 . MCL 287.746 . Norwood F. B. , Lusk J. L. . 2011 . Compassion, by the Pound: The Economics of Farm Animal Welfare . Oxford University Press , New York . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act . 2008 . CA HSC. §§ 25990–25994 (2008) . Shields S. , Shapiro P. , Rowan A. . 2017 . A decade of progress toward ending the intensive confinement of farm animals in the United States . Animals 7 : 40 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Strom S. 2015 . McDonald's plans a shift to eggs from only cage-free hens. New York Times. Accessed Oct. 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/10/business/mcdonalds-to-use-eggs-from-onlycage-free-hens.html?_r=0 . State of Florida . FL Const. Art. 10 § 21 . 2012 . Accessed Dec. 2017. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3 . Sumner D. A. , Matthews W.A. , Mench J. A. , Rosen-Molina J. T. . 2010 . The economics of regulations on hen housing in California . J. Agric. Appl. Econ. 42 : 429 – 438 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Swanson J. C. , Lee Y. , Thompson B. P. , Bawden R. , Mench J.A. . 2011 . Integration: Valuing stakeholder input in setting priorities for socially sustainable egg production . Poult. Sci. 90 : 2110 – 2121 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Tonsor G. T. , Olynk N. , Wolf C. . 2009 . Consumer preferences for animal welfare attributes: The case of gestation crates . J. Agric. Appl. Econ. 41 : 713 – 730 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Tonsor G. T. , Wolf C. A. . 2010 . Drivers of resident support for animal care oriented ballot initiatives . J. Agric. Appl. Econ. 42 : 419 – 428 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS U.S. Census Bureau . 2016 . Topics. Accessed March 2017. http://www.census.gov/topics/population.html . United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food safety and inspection service . 2015 . Meat and poultry labeling terms. Accessed Sep. 2015. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms . © 2018 Poultry Science Association Inc. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Poultry Science Oxford University Press

Consumer perceptions of egg-laying hen housing systems

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/consumer-perceptions-of-egg-laying-hen-housing-systems-jIuXKstWYL
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© 2018 Poultry Science Association Inc.
ISSN
0032-5791
eISSN
1525-3171
D.O.I.
10.3382/ps/pey205
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

ABSTRACT The egg industry has transitioned, or is in the process of transitioning, from conventional cages to alternative hen housing systems in response to legal changes in many states across the United States (US). However, consumers find it is increasingly difficult to understand the details behind those labels and specific attributes conveyed. There are multiple hen housing options with a wide range of costs and impacts on hens, workers, and the environment. This research furthers the understanding of US public perceptions and attitudes related to hen housing systems and corresponding animal welfare, worker, economic, and environmental effects. Results reveal that the US public perceives cage-free aviaries as achieving essentially the same positive impact on hen health and stress, hen behavior, and environmental impact as free-range systems when compared to conventional cage systems. The information provided can assist industry, marketing, and policy decisions with respect to hen housing. INTRODUCTION Consumers in the United States (US) have increasingly desired information about how their food is produced and what effects those practices have on animal welfare and environmental sustainability (Tonsor et al., 2009; Norwood and Lusk, 2011; Ellison et al., 2017). High profile legally mandated changes to animal production systems, such as ballot initiatives (e.g., California's Proposition 2; Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, 2008) and legislation (e.g., Michigan Public Act 0117, 2009 and State of Florida Amendment 10, 2002), have had the effect of limiting practices for confining egg laying hens. Additionally, a 2010 law passed in California requires any incoming eggs or meat to be produced under the same practice constraints affecting producers across the country that supply California markets (California Assembly Bill 1437, 2010). Legal avenues are not the only means for mandating agricultural production practice changes. Markets can also facilitate or force change as retailers, grocers, and restaurants move to sourcing from producers who follow a set of pre-determined welfare-related practices. For example, Walmart, Tyson Foods, and Perdue Farms all offer antibiotic-free animal products (Kesmodel et al., 2014). In 2015, McDonalds announced they would begin using eggs that were produced in cage-free production systems (Strom, 2015). It has been hypothesized other fast food restaurants and ready-made products would follow suit (Strom, 2015). By the end of April 2016, 14 of the 15 top grocery chains in the US had developed timelines for transitioning entirely to cage-free eggs (Shields et al., 2017). Hen housing system requirements to achieve legal or market standards are generally vague—specifying, for example, that hens must be able to spread their wings and turn around without touching each other (Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, 2008)—there are multiple potential systems that might be adopted to meet these requirements. With a diversity of production practices and market preferences for animal welfare and environmental attributes, it may be difficult for egg producers to assess the situation and make wise adjustments and investments. As Tonsor et al. (2009, p. 713) point out, “given this lack of concrete definitions and the inherent range of public perceptions…it is hardly surprising that opinions vary regarding acceptability of current production practices.” As a result of this disconnect between consumers and food, purchasing decisions are largely made on the perceived value of an attribute rather than first-hand exposure to production systems. Although there are many potential hen housing systems, there is no system that dominates when all production, environmental, and welfare aspects are considered. In a 2011 study, Lay et al. found no single superior housing system and concluded the right combination of housing design, breed, rearing conditions, and management was essential to optimize hen welfare and productivity (Lay et al., 2011). Blatchford et al. (2016) documented tradeoffs between hen housing systems using a long-term hen housing study conducted by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) (CSES, 2015). Although these reports do an excellent job of documenting the myriad effects of the hen housing systems, there has yet to be a systematic cross referencing of the welfare, environmental, and worker effects with their resulting public perception and preferences. Heng et al. (2013, p. 424) conducted a similar survey using descriptions of laying hen activities and also found that “individuals had different perceptions about how various farming practices may affect the hens’ welfare.” As legislation, public ballot initiatives, and retailer decisions continue to drive agriculture and animal welfare policy, it is critical to align documented welfare conditions with the values perceived by the public and resulting product demand. Modern, commercial egg production is capital intensive with large facilities which require long-term investments with little salvage value. They are not traditionally designed to be flexible in terms of layout or function. In addition to the investment costs to build an alternative to conventional hen housing, operational costs change if different (more) labor, feed, utilities, and other costs are required to manage the new system. For example, research has found that feed use per dozen eggs is considerably higher in non-cage systems than in conventional cage systems (Sumner et al., 2010). Further, productivity changes, mortality, and morbidity are affected by the housing system. Cannibalistic behavior and environmental microbial communities are also greater in enhanced cages and cage-free aviary systems compared to conventional cage systems (CSES, 2015). Eggs laid outside the nest box in cage-free aviary systems lead to more uncollectable, downgraded, or unmarketable eggs (Matthews and Sumner, 2015). Matthews and Sumner (2015) concluded that, relative to conventional cages, enriched cage systems have 4% higher operating costs (due to higher labor costs) and 13% higher costs when capital costs were included. Cage-free aviaries have 23% higher operating costs due to higher pullet and labor costs as well as 36% higher total costs when capital costs are included relative to conventional cages (Matthews and Sumner, 2015). Thus, although there may be some hen behavioral benefits from alternative housing systems, there is no “free lunch” here as the cost of production will increase and these systems affect environmental and worker health outcomes. Because of increased scrutiny of production practices and the potential effect on long-term investment, it is critical that US egg producers be aware of public perceptions. With knowledge of these perceptions and attitudes, egg producers can make informed decisions about production practices used on their farms while enhancing public trust and maintaining their social license. This research assesses US public attitudes and perceptions regarding hen housing systems to provide a benchmark for discussion and monitoring. MATERIALS AND METHODS Defining hen housing systems Choosing the “optimal” or preferred hen housing system is not obvious as there are tradeoffs across many dimensions including productivity, cost, welfare, and environmental impacts with each alternative. As Swanson et al. (2011, P. 2113) point out, “Animal welfare assessment is truly a wicked problem.” The authors describe the diversity of animal welfare assessments that can draw from many fields including animal behavior, animal production, physiology, genetics, and veterinary medicine (Swanson et al., 2011). In another analysis of hen housing systems, Dikmen et al. (2016) described the diversity of findings that exist when it comes to animal welfare and egg production. In their own findings, Dikmen et al. described the trade-offs between systems with no single superior housing type across animal welfare and egg production categories. To ensure an accurate assessment that is balanced across disciplines, we utilized a 4-yr study conducted by the CSES (CSES, 2015). The hen housing descriptions from CSES are described as follows: Conventional cage housing: Conventional cage housing has cages housing 4 to 9 hens. The approximate space per hen is 80 square inches. There may be thousands of cages per house, often housing 200,000 hens in each building. Enriched colony housing: Enriched colony systems house 60 to 250 hens in more open cages that are larger and equipped with perches, nesting areas, and material to facilitate foraging and dust bathing. The approximate space per hen is 116 square inches. These systems can house 100,000 or more hens in each building. Cage-free aviary housing: Cage-free aviary systems allow hens to roam throughout various sized sections of a building. Each section contains perches, nesting areas, and dust-bathing material. There can be 80,000 or more hens per building. The approximate space per hen is 144 square inches. Although the CSES evaluated housing systems using many attributes, for this analysis these attributes were summarized in 7 categories to avoid survey fatigue and make the terms more recognizable to the general public. The following 7 summary categories were used: hen health and stress, hen behavior, environmental impact, natural resource use efficiency, worker health and safety, food safety, and egg quality. Although the CSES did not include free-range housing systems in their study, it was included in our survey. To be considered free-range or free-roaming according to the USDA, “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside” (USDA, 2015). The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines free-range as follows: “the key feature of free-range housing is access to an outdoor area during the day” (AVMA, 2012, p. 3). Given the broadness of this definition and the vast diversity in free-range systems, it was difficult to generalize the precise effects of the free-range system. To summarize the free-range housing system attributes, we utilized a study conducted by the AVMA (AVMA, 2008). Table 1 describes the specific attributes from both the CSES and AVMA that were aggregated to generate the 7 more general categories utilized in the survey. The CSES scores were used for enriched colony and cage-free aviary, whereas AVMA scores were used for free-range. The CSES measurements used a rating scale from +4 to–4 for each of their attributes, with conventional cage housing as a reference point (score of 0) against which the other housing types are compared. For example, a score of +4 indicated that there was an “exceptionally better” effect of the housing type, relative to conventional housing, for that specific attribute. Similarly, a score of –4 indicated that the housing type performed “exceptionally worse” for that attribute as compared to conventional cage housing. A score of 0 represented no difference between the conventional cage and the housing type in question with regard to the specific attribute of interest. For the free-range housing, the AVMA used a good, medium, and poor scale to score their attributes as opposed to a baseline conventional cage comparison. Those rankings were assigned 0, 1, and –1 to create a net impact by category consistent with the CSES method. Table 1. CSES and AVMA attribute aggregation. Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Sources: Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Table 1. CSES and AVMA attribute aggregation. Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Survey attribute category CSES attribute(s) AVMA attribute(s) Hen Health and Stress Mortality, cannibalism/aggression, keel damage, tibia/humerus strength, stress physiology, feather condition, foot condition, environmental comfort, feeding, and drinking Mortality %, mortality from feather pecking and cannibalism, bone strength and fractures, exposure to disease vectors, internal parasites, external parasites, bumblefoot, feather loss, hen hysteria and pilling/smothering, risk of predation Hen Behavior Behavior (e.g., flying, perching, nesting, opportunity to forage, dust bathing) Use of nest boxes, use of perches, foraging behavior, dustbathing behavior Environmental Impact Ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, particulate matter emissions Unavailable Natural Resource Use Efficiency Natural resource use efficiency Unavailable Worker Health and Safety Worker particulate matter exposure, worker ammonia exposure, worker endotoxin exposure, worker lung health, worker ergonomics, worker access, worker egress Unavailable Food Safety Food safety Food safety Egg Quality Egg quality Egg quality Sources: Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Table 2 summarizes the documented impact of shifting from conventional to each of the other housing types based on CSES and AVMA research. For example, in order to compute the net environmental impact of moving from a conventional cage to enriched colony and cage-free aviary (Table 2), the scores for the following attributes from CSES were summed: ammonia emissions, carbon footprint, indoor air quality, manure management, and particulate matter emissions (Table 1). In Table 2, those attributes assigned a negative impact had attribute scores that summed to less than zero, those assigned a positive impact had attribute scores that summed to greater than zero, and those assigned no impact had attribute scores that summed to zero. The same method was used for all attributes and housing types. Those assigned “not applicable” for the change from conventional to free-range were attributes that were not studied or could not be studied given the diversity of free-range operations. Table 2. Documented impacts of hen housing systems.1 Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact 1Impacts are relative to conventional cage housing systems. Sources: Adapted by authors from Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Table 2. Documented impacts of hen housing systems.1 Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative impact Negative impact No impact Hen Behavior Positive impact Positive impact Positive impact Environmental Impact Not available (NA) Negative impact Positive impact Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA Negative impact No impact Worker Health and Safety NA Negative impact No impact Food Safety No impact No impact No impact Egg Quality No impact No impact No impact 1Impacts are relative to conventional cage housing systems. Sources: Adapted by authors from Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply 2015 and American Veterinary Medical Association, 2008. View Large Survey of US public A nationally representative online survey, developed and programmed by a team of researchers at Michigan State University and Purdue University, was administered over the course of 2 wks in April 2017 to collect information about US public perceptions of hen housing types and laying hen welfare. The survey was anonymous and approved by both Michigan State University and Purdue University Human Research Protection Programs. Survey respondents were contacted through Lightspeed GMI, which maintains an opt-in panel of potential respondents. The survey was hosted using the online platform Qualtrics, and a system of quotas within Qualtrics based on US Census categories were used to facilitate obtaining a representative sample. After a series of questions about sociodemographics, factors related to purchasing eggs, and general knowledge of egg labeling and egg production, respondents were asked what effects they expected a switch from conventional hen housing to each of the housing types (i.e., enriched colony or cage-free aviary) would have on hen welfare, productivity, behavior, worker health, and environmental attributes. The survey did not provide information about each of the housing types so the responses reflected the existing respondent perceptions. This method reflects the shopping experience where eggs are labeled in regard to the system used but the systems are not described further. Respondents may have been, or believed they were, familiar with the laying hen housing systems. Accurate knowledge is not required to make egg purchasing decisions—or vote on ballot initiatives—but perceptions are crucial to maintaining the social license to produce. RESULTS A total of 2813 completed surveys were collected. Table 3 displays summary statistics for the survey respondents and compares them to the US Census. As the table reveals, the sample closely matched the US population with respect to gender, age, income, and region of residence. Table 3. Summary statistics. Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Sources: Author survey and US Census Bureau (2016). View Large Table 3. Summary statistics. Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Survey frequency Survey percent of respondents US Census, 2016 (percent of US population) Gender Female 1518 54.0 51.3 Male 1295 46.0 48.7 Age 18–24 191 6.8 12.6 25–34 534 19.0 17.8 35–44 492 17.5 16.4 45–54 522 18.6 17.4 55–64 495 17.6 16.5 65+ 579 20.6 19.3 Income $0 to $24,999 582 20.7 22.1 $25,000 to $49,999 732 26.0 22.7 $50,000 to $74,999 551 19.6 16.7 $75,000 to $99,000 399 14.2 12.1 $100,000+ 549 19.5 26.4 Geographic region Northeast 529 18.8 17.5 South 1026 36.5 37.7 Mid-west 639 22.7 21.1 West 619 22.0 23.7 Sources: Author survey and US Census Bureau (2016). View Large The majority of respondents were the primary shopper in the household making their views of egg housing practices particularly relevant for marketing eggs (Table 4). Eighty-five percent of respondents consumed eggs every week and only 3.5% did not consume eggs. Finally, when asked what the most important reason for not making an egg purchase, only 6.8% of respondents said that it would be due to factors associated with animal welfare whereas the most common reason was price with 42% of respondents (Table 4). Table 4. Egg shopping decisions. Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 View Large Table 4. Egg shopping decisions. Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 Primary shopper Survey frequency Percent of respondents No 379 13.5 Yes 2434 86.5 Frequency of egg consumption 4 or more times per week 608 21.6 2 to 3 times per week 1111 39.5 Once per week 701 24.9 Once per month 295 10.5 Never 98 3.5 If you were not to purchase eggs, what would be the most important reason? Price 1199 42.6 Food safety 376 13.4 Food allergies 186 6.6 Animal welfare associated with eggs 191 6.8 Production practices associated with eggs 155 5.5 Dietary reasons 337 12.0 Other 369 13.1 View Large When asked to self-assess knowledge of egg production practices and egg labels (Table 5), respondents perceived a greater knowledge of the labels than the production practices, indicating a disconnect between label and production practice in regard to consumer understanding of the housing system they prefer. Given that the average US consumer is exposed to egg labels more frequently than they are exposed to laying hen facilities, this result makes sense. However, in the absence of greater information, consumers may infer positive or negative impacts back to the production system based on their perceived understanding of the label. Table 5. Self-evaluated knowledge of egg production practices and labels. Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 View Large Table 5. Self-evaluated knowledge of egg production practices and labels. Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 Rate your knowledge of the farming practices used in egg production Rate your knowledge of the labels used on egg cartons Rating Freq. Percent Freq. Percent 1 (extremely unknowledgeable) 579 20.58 405 14.40 2 728 25.88 610 21.69 3 (neutral) 897 31.89 1045 37.15 4 386 13.72 491 17.45 5 (extremely knowledgeable) 223 7.93 262 9.31 View Large When queried about the impact of moving to alternative housing systems from conventional cages, respondents overwhelmingly chose free-range as the superior housing type. The majority described a shift to free-range (from conventional) as having a positive impact on all attributes including cost of production (note: positive impact on cost of production signifies the cost of production is less expensive as that is a positive change from the consumer's perspective) (Table 6). To interpret Table 6, for example 5.62% of respondents responded that going from conventional to free-range would have a negative impact on hen health and stress. Interestingly, there was little difference between the perceived benefits of shifting from conventional to free-range vs. the perceived benefits of shifting from conventional to cage-free aviary. On average across the 7 categories there was only a 2.7% increase in the number of respondents who indicated a positive impact when shifting to free-range vs. a positive impact when shifting to cage-free aviary. There are 2 possibilities for this result: respondents who perceived a positive impact for cage-free aviary also perceived a positive impact for free-range but with a differential positive impact that was undetectable given the format of the question, or the respondents basically did not differentiate between cage-free aviary and free-range with respect to the factors examined. Table 6. Perceived impact of alternative hen housing systems relative to conventional housing (percent of respondents).1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 1To interpret Table 6, for example 5.62% of respondents responded that going from conventional to free-range would have a negative impact on hen health and stress. View Large Table 6. Perceived impact of alternative hen housing systems relative to conventional housing (percent of respondents).1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Impact Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress Negative 5.6 6.9 11.3 None 18.6 20.3 30.5 Positive 75.8 72.8 58.2 Hen Behavior Negative 5.3 5.9 10.2 None 20.7 22.5 32.6 Positive 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Negative 7.5 6.9 9.8 None 31.3 32.9 39.9 Positive 61.3 60.1 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency Negative 6.8 7.2 9.4 None 28.6 32.2 38.5 Positive 64.6 60.6 52.2 Worker Health and Safety Negative 5.3 6.6 8.2 None 37.5 39.5 45.2 Positive 57.2 53.9 46.7 Food Safety Negative 5.9 6.6 8.3 None 32.7 33.4 39.7 Positive 61.4 60.0 52.1 Egg Quality Negative 4.9 4.6 8.0 None 25.7 28.1 35.9 Positive 69.4 67.4 56.1 1To interpret Table 6, for example 5.62% of respondents responded that going from conventional to free-range would have a negative impact on hen health and stress. View Large Combining the documented impacts (Table 2) with the public response (Table 6) a very low percentage of respondents correctly identified the true impact of hen housing (Table 7). Most respondents assumed cage-free aviary and free-range housing systems were superior for all attributes. As a result, the welfare attribute that was most correctly understood was “hen behavior,” because it is the lone attribute that was rated as truly superior for those housing types. The negative impacts of those housing types, such as increased cannibalism, higher mortality rates, and lower worker health and safety, are not well understood by the public as indicated by the very low percentage of respondents who were correct in assessing the true impacts of a shift from conventional housing (Table 7). Table 7. Percent of “correct” respondent perceptions of housing systems.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 1Values in table represent the percentage of respondents who correctly understood the change in welfare of the stated attributes above when going from conventional housing to the other listed housing types. View Large Table 7. Percent of “correct” respondent perceptions of housing systems.1 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 Going from conventional to: Attribute Free-range Cage-free aviary Enriched colony Hen Health and Stress 5.6 6.9 30.5 Hen Behavior 74.1 71.6 57.2 Environmental Impact Not available (NA) 6.9 50.3 Natural Resource Use Efficiency NA 7.2 38.5 Worker Health and Safety NA 6.6 45.2 Food Safety 32.7 33.4 39.7 Egg Quality 25.7 28.1 35.9 1Values in table represent the percentage of respondents who correctly understood the change in welfare of the stated attributes above when going from conventional housing to the other listed housing types. View Large DISCUSSION Swanson et al. (2011) stressed that stakeholder input about sustainable egg supply is a critical component of setting future directions and goals for research, policy, and producer innovation. Stakeholder input is also a critical component for long-term industry investment. The technologies developed and implemented must be in line with the demands of the consumer and public expectations. Policy-makers and industry should work with consumer and public perceptions and preferences rather than imposing production practices, products, or systems. However, it is also critical that the industry work to better inform consumers of the true implications of production practices—in this case hen housing types. In this survey, the discordance between perceived benefits of a housing type and actual benefits of a housing type was clearly exposed. Few survey respondents understood the true implications of shifting hen housing systems. For example, consumers may be quite interested that hen cannibalism is a significantly greater issue in commercial cage-free aviaries than in conventional cages. Consumers may find it acceptable to trade increased environmental impact and inferior worker conditions for greater freedom of movement and access to natural laying hen activities but it should be an informed choice. As indicated by these results, the public has a higher perceived knowledge of labels than production practices. This is a potential indicator of a disconnect between label and production practice in regard to consumer understanding of the housing system they prefer, which may in part explain the discrepancies between expert opinion and public opinion with regard to animal welfare. Although consumers are exposed more often to egg labels than egg production practices, it is the production that dictates the label. In this era of increasing awareness of food production and animal welfare, it is important to close the gap between knowledge of labels and knowledge of the complete set of production methods that result in that label. The only way to effectively align consumer preferences with farm-level production methods is to have labels that are readily understood. If the American public has higher self-assessed knowledge of labels than of production practices, we might expect issues with understanding the animal welfare granted by specific labeling terms. When asking the general public about the tradeoff between environmental impacts of management practices, Heng et al. (2013, p. 425) found that 40% of the public was indifferent while “a greater percentage of respondents incorrectly believed that a management practice that contributes to a higher level of hen welfare also places a lower burden on environment.” Similarly, most respondents in this survey predicted positive welfare impacts and positive environmental impacts when shifting from the conventional system to the other forms of housing. Malone and Lusk (2016) found that after the California ban on battery cages the average price paid by Californians rose between $0.48 and $1.08/dozen eggs. The potential remains for other ballot initiatives or legislation across the US to further mandate changes in egg production practices. This is concerning for national food markets because as Tonsor and Wolf (2010, p. 420) point out, “this patchwork of adjustments across the country leads to a range of developing (at least short-run) comparative advantage disparities across states.” In this survey, respondents indicated price as the most important factor for not making an egg purchase, but also indicated a perceived positive impact of shifting to more expensive forms of hen housing. Conventional cage hen housing is prevalent for many reasons, it is the status quo, hen housing is a long-term investment, and consumers are price conscious, as indicated by survey respondents (Table 4). However, when confronted with a ballot initiative such as the battery cage ban addressed by Malone and Lusk (2016), price is removed from the decision process and is replaced by the perceived positive impact on animal welfare of shifting hen housing type. In order to align policy, industry expansion, and consumer values, it is critical that the industry continues to explore true impacts on animal welfare and effectively communicate those impacts to the public. CONCLUSION This research revealed that the US public perceives cage-free aviaries as achieving essentially the same positive impact on hen health and stress, hen behavior, environmental impact, and other important attributes as eggs produced in free-range systems. Most respondents did not recognize the potential for a negative impact on worker health and safety and hen health and stress from the transition from conventional cages to alternative housing systems. REFERENCES American Veterinary Medical Association . 2008 . AVMA issues – A Comparison of Cage and Non-Cage Systems for Housing Laying Hens. Accessed Sep. 2017. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Pages/AVMA-issues-A-Comparison-of-Cage-and-Non-Cage-Systems-for-Housing-Laying-Hens.aspx . American Veterinary Medical Association . 2012 . Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of Laying Hen Housing. Accessed Sep. 2017. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/AnimalWelfare/Pages/AVMA-issues-A-Comparison-of-Cage-and-Non-Cage-Systems-for-Housing-Laying-Hens.aspx . Blatchford R. A. , Fulton R. M. , Mench J. A. . 2016 . The utilization of the Welfare Quality® assessment for determining laying hen condition across three housing systems . J. Dairy Sci. 95 : 5892 – 5903 . Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) . 2015 . Final Research Results Report. Accessed Sep. 2017. http://www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org/final-results . California Assembly Bill 1437 . 2010 . Accessed Sep. 2017. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=200920100AB1437 . Dikmen B. Y. , İpek A. , Şahan Ü. , Petek M. , Sözcü A. . 2016 . Egg production and welfare of laying hens kept in different housing systems (conventional, enriched cage, and free range) . Poult. Sci. 95 : 1564 – 1572 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Ellison B. , Brooks K. , Mieno T. . 2017 . Which livestock production claims matter most to consumers? Agric. Hum. Values 34 : 819 – 831 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Heng Y. , Peterson H. H. , X Li . 2013 . Consumer attitudes toward farm-animal welfare: the case of laying hens . J. Agr. Resource Econ. 38 : 418 – 434 . Kesmodel D. , Bunge J. , McKay B. . 2014 . Meat companies go antibiotics-free as more consumers demand it. Wall Street Journal. Accessed Oct. 2017. http://www.wsj.com/articles/meat-companies-goantibiotics-free-as-more-consumers-demand-it-1415071802 . Lay D. C. Jr. , Fulton R. M. , Hester P. Y. , Karcher D. M. , Kjaer J. , Mench J. A. , Mullens B. A. , Newberry R. C. , Nicol C. J. , O'Sullivan N. P. , Porter R. E. . 2011 Hen welfare in different housing systems . Poult. Sci. 90 : 278 – 294 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Malone T. , Lusk J.L. . 2016 . Putting the chicken before the egg price: An ex post analysis of California's battery cage ban . J. Agr. Resource Econ. 41 : 518 . Matthews W. A. , Sumner D. A. . 2015 . Effects of housing system on the costs of commercial egg production . Poult. Sci. 94 : 552 – 557 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Michigan Public Act 117 . 2009 . MCL 287.746 . Norwood F. B. , Lusk J. L. . 2011 . Compassion, by the Pound: The Economics of Farm Animal Welfare . Oxford University Press , New York . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act . 2008 . CA HSC. §§ 25990–25994 (2008) . Shields S. , Shapiro P. , Rowan A. . 2017 . A decade of progress toward ending the intensive confinement of farm animals in the United States . Animals 7 : 40 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Strom S. 2015 . McDonald's plans a shift to eggs from only cage-free hens. New York Times. Accessed Oct. 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/10/business/mcdonalds-to-use-eggs-from-onlycage-free-hens.html?_r=0 . State of Florida . FL Const. Art. 10 § 21 . 2012 . Accessed Dec. 2017. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3 . Sumner D. A. , Matthews W.A. , Mench J. A. , Rosen-Molina J. T. . 2010 . The economics of regulations on hen housing in California . J. Agric. Appl. Econ. 42 : 429 – 438 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Swanson J. C. , Lee Y. , Thompson B. P. , Bawden R. , Mench J.A. . 2011 . Integration: Valuing stakeholder input in setting priorities for socially sustainable egg production . Poult. Sci. 90 : 2110 – 2121 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Tonsor G. T. , Olynk N. , Wolf C. . 2009 . Consumer preferences for animal welfare attributes: The case of gestation crates . J. Agric. Appl. Econ. 41 : 713 – 730 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Tonsor G. T. , Wolf C. A. . 2010 . Drivers of resident support for animal care oriented ballot initiatives . J. Agric. Appl. Econ. 42 : 419 – 428 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS U.S. Census Bureau . 2016 . Topics. Accessed March 2017. http://www.census.gov/topics/population.html . United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food safety and inspection service . 2015 . Meat and poultry labeling terms. Accessed Sep. 2015. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms . © 2018 Poultry Science Association Inc. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

Poultry ScienceOxford University Press

Published: Jun 6, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off