A survey of just under 500 Americans shows animal welfare and well being tops their list of concerns when they think about farms, milk and dairy foods.
The on-line survey was conducted twice, once in June 2014 and again in January 2015. Roughly 70% of the respondents were less than 35 years of age, and about 85% had at least some college education. Although the data is thought to be reliable, it should not be considered representative of the entire U.S. population, notes lead researcher Clarissa Cardoso with the University of British Columbia.
“Concerns focused largely on animal welfare and argued that cows inherently deserve to be provided a good quality of life, and that providing a good life would have the instrumental benefit of improving milk quality for consumers,” says Cardoso.
The survey respondents seemed most concerned that dairy cattle have access to pasture and not be given exogenous hormones or antibiotics to increase milk production. That could be an early warning that hormones used to jump start fertility programs or synchronize estrus could be a problem with consumers. Conversely, the survey respondents seemed to recognize the importance of antibiotics to treat illness.
There was also a preference for organic- and pasture-based system. At the same time, these consumers wanted farms that were efficient and profitable, and paid employees well.
As previous studies have shown, notes Cardoso, consumers seem to want it all: Naturalness and tradition while valuing modernity in dairy production.
“Our study suggests that providing assurances that animals are well treated, developing methods to incorporate pasture access, and ensuring healthy products without relying on antibiotics or hormones will improved the social sustainability of the dairy industry,” says Cardoso.
Read more on the study here.