Animal welfare decisions in Dutch poultry and pig farms

E. Gocsik

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU



The minimum level of animal welfare (AW) is guaranteed by EU and national legislation in most European countries. Within the current international economic and political environment further improvements in the welfare of farm animals predominantly rely on market initiatives. Market initiatives set requirements in terms of AW that exceed the legal minimum standards. Participation in a particular market initiative is a voluntary choice of the farmer. The overall objective of this dissertation was to analyze the factors that determine farmers’ decision-making with regard to the implementation of AW standards, and to identify barriers to the adoption of above-legal AW standards at farm level. In this dissertation farmers’ decision-making is conceptualized as a process in which farmers trade off financial and non-financial goals. Financial goals relate to monetary aspects, whereas non-financial goals appeals to farmers’ intrinsic motivation to improve AW. This dissertation suggests that broiler and fattening pig farmers do not have a strong intrinsic motivation to switch to a production system that provides higher level of AW than the minimum legal requirements. In this respect, at farm level certain financial preconditions have to be met to enable farmers to adopt higher AW standards. More specifically, farmers require a price premium that is at least sufficient to cover extra costs as a result of higher animal welfare standards. Furthermore, it is important to manage the (perceived) uncertainty of the market and price premiums. These imply that middle-market segment could be attractive for farmers due to its high cost-efficiency, i.e., realize the highest relative increase in AW at the lowest costs, which is also in the best interest of other stakeholders in the supply chain. Furthermore as switching to a middle-market system primarily affects variable costs farmers are given the flexibility to revert to the conventional system if their expectations are not met. Middle-market segment products, as they improve on many production attributes related to AW, may also offer alternatives for consumers that take many attributes into account to form an opinion of the animal friendliness of a production system. In the light of the foregoing, further development of the middle-market segment appears to be a reasonable direction in improving AW. In order to facilitate the further development of the middle-market segment a high involvement of all stakeholders in the supply chain, i.e., slaughterhouses, processors, retail, NGOs, and the government as well is required.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Oude Lansink, Alfons, Promotor
  • Saatkamp, Helmut, Co-promotor
  • van der Lans, Ivo, Co-promotor
Award date19 Dec 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789462571624
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2014


  • animal welfare
  • animal production
  • poultry
  • pigs
  • investment
  • economics
  • pig farming
  • poultry farming
  • animal housing
  • agricultural production systems
  • broilers
  • hens


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