This paper is derived from a larger scale project investigating consumer attitudes towards organic food in the UK. Presents focus group results on consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviour in relation to two key interrelated food trends: organic food and animal welfare. The results indicate that consumers often confuse organic and free‐range products because they believe that “organic” is equivalent to “free‐range” food. Focus group discussions were conducted to identify the main beliefs and attitudes towards organic food of both organic and non‐organic food buyers. Results indicate that, although health and food safety concerns are the main motives for organic food purchases, ethical concerns, specifically in relation to standards of animal welfare, play a significant influencing role in the decision to purchase organic food. The results are consistent with parallel research into consumer concerns about animal welfare, which showed that consumers are primarily concerned about food safety issues. Furthermore, the research illustrates the central outcome that animal welfare is used by consumers as an indicator of other, more important product attributes, such as safety and the impact on health. Indeed, ethical considerations seem to motivate the purchase of organic food and free‐range products and, therefore, may be viewed as interrelated. However, such ethical frameworks are closely related, if not contingent upon, the quality of the product, which includes perceptions of higher standards of safety and healthiness. Based on the qualitative data, suggests that the organic market could take advantage of research on consumer motivation to buy free‐range products, by embodying ethical concerns as an indicator of product quality.
Harper, G.C. and Makatouni, A. (2002), "Consumer perception of organic food production and farm animal welfare", British Food Journal, Vol. 104 No. 3/4/5, pp. 287-299. https://doi.org/10.1108/00070700210425723
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