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Animals 2018, 8(11), 207; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110207

Animal Welfare and Mountain Products from Traditional Dairy Farms: How Do Consumers Perceive Complexity?

1
Department of Agricultural, Food, Environmental and Animal Sciences, University of Udine, 33100 Udine, Italy
2
MAPP Centre, Department of Management, Aarhus University, DK 8000 Aarhus, Denmark
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 19 October 2018 / Revised: 9 November 2018 / Accepted: 12 November 2018 / Published: 14 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Cattle)
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Simple Summary

European consumers recognize the added value of mountain dairy production and relate it to a composite of positive attributes. However, while consumers’ understanding of conventional dairy production and animal welfare has already been investigated, how consumers perceive animal welfare in traditional mountain dairy farming remains unexplored. This qualitative study aims at shedding light on consumers’ perceptions regarding animal welfare in mountain dairy cheese production systems. Focus group interviews were carried out with three major consumer groups that purchase mountain cheese including rural consumers living in mountain villages, urban consumers living in the plains, and urban consumers living in mountain cities. The results of this study show that all participants expect mountain farming to be on a smaller scale and mountain products to be healthier when compared to non-mountain farming systems. However, the verbal appreciation of certain husbandry and management choices especially in the case of urban consumers did not result in their recognition when pictures of traditional husbandry systems were provided, which displays a disconnection between the expectations towards mountain production systems and reality. These findings will support the development of a transparent science-based dialogue among mountain dairy chain actors on animal welfare and sustainable farming practices in mountain areas.

Abstract

This qualitative study aims to investigate consumers’ perceptions toward dairy cow welfare in traditional mountain farms. While consumers’ understanding of conventional dairy production and animal welfare has already been investigated, how consumers perceive animal welfare in traditional mountain dairy farming remains still unexplored. Focus group interviews were conducted with consumers having different degrees of geographical proximity to mountains and with an explicit interest in local dairy products. The results of this qualitative study show that participants expect mountain farming to be on a smaller scale when compared to non-mountain farming systems and expect mountain products to be healthier. Similarly, all participants consider origin, locality, and small-scale production as relevant quality attributes of mountain cheese. However, the appreciation of these abstract features did not necessarily result in their recognition when sample pictures of traditional husbandry systems were provided especially in the case of urban participants. This study contributes to reveal the gap between urban consumers’ conception of mountain farming and the actual farming practices. It also indicates the need to promote an effective science-based dialogue on animal welfare that goes beyond an anthropomorphic perspective and tackles the complexity of farming systems in relation to the context in which they are located. View Full-Text
Keywords: mountain product; consumers’ perception; qualitative research; animal welfare; dairy cattle; small-scale farms mountain product; consumers’ perception; qualitative research; animal welfare; dairy cattle; small-scale farms
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Zuliani, A.; Esbjerg, L.; Grunert, K.G.; Bovolenta, S. Animal Welfare and Mountain Products from Traditional Dairy Farms: How Do Consumers Perceive Complexity? Animals 2018, 8, 207.

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