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Estimating non-market benefits of reduced stocking density and other welfare increasing measures for meat chickens - AW0236

This project considers the economic evidence base for a change in a specific livestock management process that affects animal welfare.

The European Union is currently in the process of developing proposals to introduce minimum standards for chicken welfare, that would include legislation on 'stocking density' (bird weight/unit area) for birds kept for meat production. The proposed density requirements are potentially lower than those used by some UK producers and the proposal therefore represents a potential increase in the regulatiory compliance cost for the industry.

Government is aware of the potential regulatory burden, and conducts regulatory impact assessments (RIA) of new regulations. RIA attempts an impartial report on the total costs incurred by both the private and public sectors of complying with agency regulations. Good regulation will normally attempt to balance benefits and costs to deliver a net increase in national (social) welfare. The latter is measured by considering the total of private and public costs and benefits that might accrue to a regulatory change.

While the costs of most animal welfare improvements are relatively straighforward to calculate, the challenge comes in valuing benefits, which are a mixture of market and non-market impacts. This is the case with chicken welfare. Market benefits can be ascertained by measuring any increased productivity of broilers in response to reduced mortality and morbidity in birds. This productivity gain translates into a direct market gain for producers. Market benefits can also be inferred from purchase decisions made by welfare-inclined consumers.

This information may, however, only provide a partial picture of the wider non-market welfare gains. In contrast, the non-market benefit is not observed in this way. Non market benefits can be associated with a range of motives held by the general public. Many people may be vaguely aware of the difference between 'good' and 'bad' welfare standards and, once more fully appraised, have definite preferences in favour of higher welfare. If this is the case then these preferences can actually be measured using revealed preference or stated preference methods.

Ahead of transposing this regulation, and as part of the RIA process for England, Defra wishes to ascertain whether there is a net gain delivered by the EU recommendations. This project does this in two ways. Firstly, by considering the scientific evidence for the link between the proposed meaures and animal health and welfare. such that they can be assigned a monetary economic value that is commensurate with cost information.

While there is some scientific uncertainty surrounding the welfare effects of stocking density reductions, the general public may nevertheless be motivated to hold preferences for this particular welfare improvement in terms of its existence and ethical benefits. These preferences form part of the economic evidence base of any change, and need to be evaluated in terms of whether the benefits of the proposal exceed the cost of compliance to producers.

This project applies stated preference methods to measure the economic value of the EU stocking proposal. After considering the scientific evidence-base for the change, we apply established hypothetical methods (contingent valuation and choice experiments) to measures stated preferences for the change amongst a sample of respondents in England. These methods are survey-based and designed to elicit the preferences of the wider general public including consumers and non-consumers of livestock products. Surveys are designed to minimise bias from strategic responses and free-riding behaviour. We consider the validity of the results of the stated preference approach by comparing the values with evidence of revealed preference information provided by actual purchase behaviour. Overall, the exercises provide a clearer picture of the validity of the proposed regulatory change.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Final Report   (377k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2005

Cost: £61,460
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC Commercial Ltd
Animal Welfare              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare