Economic and welfare impacts of providing good life opportunities to farm animals

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Stokes, J. E., Mullan, S., Takahashi, T., Monte, F. and Main, D. C. J. 2020. Economic and welfare impacts of providing good life opportunities to farm animals. Animals. 10 (4), p. 610.

AuthorsStokes, J. E., Mullan, S., Takahashi, T., Monte, F. and Main, D. C. J.

Existing animal welfare standards for legislation and food certification programmes are primarily designed to avoid harms to the livestock, with minimal consideration given to their behavioural freedoms. Recent research has shown, however, that animal welfare should not only be evaluated by the absence of negative states but also by the presence of "good life" or positive experiences enjoyed by animals. The objective of the present study is to investigate the scientific validity and on-farm cost implications of utilising potential input-based measures of positive welfare as part of evaluation criteria for farm assurance schemes. Building upon the Farm Animal Welfare Council's concept of good life opportunities, an assessment was undertaken on 49 noncaged laying hen farms across the UK by measuring on-farm resources to facilitate positive experiences alongside commonly measured metrics for welfare outcomes. The financial cost of providing these resources on each enterprise was also estimated using a farm-scale costing tool. The results suggested that 63% of resource needs that facilitate the behaviour opportunities of laying hens are already being provided by these producers, far above legal and commercial requirements. This practice attracts no reward mechanism or direct financial benefit under the current market structure. Additional provision of opportunities was positively associated with behavioural outcomes, but only limited impact was observed on health and productivity measures. Economic modelling indicated that significant room exists to further improve welfare scores on these farms, on average by 97%, without incurring additional costs. Together we argue that these results can be seen as evidence of market failure since producers are providing positive welfare value to society that is not being currently recognised. It is therefore contended that measuring and rewarding the supply of good life opportunities could be a novel policy instrument to create an effective marketplace that appropriately recognises high welfare production.

KeywordsQuality of life; Positive experience; Resource tiers; Economic analysis; Laying hens
Year of Publication2020
Journal citation10 (4), p. 610
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 2 (WP2) - Adaptive management systems for improved efficiency and nutritional quality
Publisher's version
Copyright license
CC BY 4.0
Supplemental file
Copyright license
CC BY 4.0
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online02 Apr 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted26 Mar 2020

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