The value of additional calf--mother contact in milk choice: an analysis of US consumers


In recent decades, there has been an increase in public concerns about the animal welfare impacts of many farm practices. The transition to systems that are perceived to increase animal welfare is however, hampered by the lack of transparency regarding farming practices, information gaps and poor value signaling. Using the case of milk choice, this study investigates US consumer (N = 1020) preferences for systems that allow for additional calf-dam (mother) contact, dehorning and the role of different formats of information (i.e., text and images). The study applies a multi-profile (Case 3) best-worst scoring approach. Data were analyzed using mixed logit and latent class models. The results indicate that consumers signal significantly higher values for production systems that allow for more calf-dam contact. These preferences differ by consumer segments. Consumers also expressed positive values for dehorning with pain mitigation. The results further show that a seemingly small addition to textual information treatment, i.e., providing consumers with pictures associated with calf-dam contact practices generates statistically significant premiums. Sensitivity to additional information was high amongst female and urban consumers. The findings of this study highlight the demand incentives for the creation of niche markets for calf management practices in the dairy industry.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems