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The economics of moving to higher welfare farming

News Section Icon Published 07/09/2011

There is a widespread assumption that farming animals to higher standards of animal welfare invariably leads to a substantial increase in farm-level productions costs.

Peter Stevenson, our Chief Policy Advisor has carried out an extensive amount of research, looking at recent studies and has found that often this isn't the case.

Industry data shows that a free-range egg costs just 2p more to produce than a battery egg and housing sows in groups rather than stalls adds just 2p to the cost of producing 1 kg of pork.

In fact, in certain cases, farming to higher standards of animal welfare can provide economic benefits. In better welfare systems, animals tend to be healthier, therefore lowering the cost of veterinary bills and reducing mortality rates. The provision of straw and additional space for finishing pigs can result in improved growth rates and improved feed conversion.  

High yielding dairy cows suffer from a range of painful health problems including lameness and mastitis.  Economic data shows that lower yielding but healthier cows with longer productive lives can deliver higher net margins for farmers due to lower heifer replacement costs and higher sale prices for the calves and cull cows.

Peter's new report, 'Reviewing the costs: The economics of moving to higher welfare farming' is based on published economic data and challenges the received wisdom that better animal welfare is always economically burdensome.

He says: "A huge amount of important scientific research has been carried out in the last 20 years into farm animal behaviour, physiology and health. However, much less attention has been given to the economic implications of moving to higher animal welfare.

My report gathers together the available data and shows that in some cases improved welfare adds relatively little to on-farm production costs and in other cases enhanced welfare can actually be economically beneficial."

Compassion in World Farming is encouraged by the insight provided in this report and urges you to read it here.


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