AbstractThe interest of European consumers towards animal welfare can be influenced by several variables, both related to the consumers themselves and to the different countries of the EU. In order to assess animal welfare at farm level, it is essential to develop animal-based measures in accordance with the animals’ actual welfare state in terms of their behaviour, health and physiology. The search for valid and reliable indicators is a key objective of several research programs especially for assessing welfare at farm level and the tools may include surveys addressed to farmers. However, there is a need to guarantee financial support for farmers who breed animals in accordance with such welfare conditions, to cover their additional costs. The aim of the study was to investigate the eating habits of Italian consumers regarding meat consumption linked to their knowledge of animal welfare and to their willingness to pay. We investigated consumers’ understanding of animal welfare using a questionnaire (based on a list of twenty-three closed-ended questions) designed for collecting data from large numbers of respondents and multivariate statistical analysis. The data in our study showed that the variable with the greatest influence on purchase price was the place of meat purchase. As regards level of education, it appears that people with a high level of education are more concerned about animal welfare and, consequently, are willing to spend a higher price when buying meat. Consumer attention to the animal-welfare issue is on the rise and, in parallel with this growth, there is also a greater willingness to pay, i.e. a surcharge for the products obtained in the respect of animal welfare. This growth is influenced by the awareness and knowledge of the characteristics of animal welfare.
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