Envir and Occup Health Science
Non Technical Summary
This project seeks to enhance understanding and build trust between producers and consumers in order to facilitate convergence of decision-making related to animal welfare and environmental impacts of meat production. Consumers increasingly demand radical changes to animal agriculture production systems in order to improve sustainability across multiple domains. Messaging to consumers is often over-simplified, single-issue-focused, and contradictory, leading to confusion for consumers trying to make the most impactful choices. This in turn results in market signals that are similarly unclear or contradictory, are frequently unhelpful for producers trying to make meaningful environmental and welfare-related improvements, and may in some instances actually hinder progress towards optimal solutions. Overall, this situation has the effect of eroding trust between consumers and producers and impeding transformational change. Work conducted as part of this project will address this disconnect through fully transdisciplinary, tightly coordinated research, education, and extension. We propose to (1) illuminate the complexity of animal agriculture decision-making related to animal welfare and environmental impact (2) assess how producers' perceptions of complexity in this space are aligned or misaligned with consumer perceptions and issue framings in existing consumer research, (3) apply an innovative educational model to facilitate convergence of understanding between producers and consumers related to complexity in this space, and (4) translate findings into actionable recommendations for the animal agriculture value chain regarding practices, communication, and policy.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
Goals / Objectives
The overall goal of this project is to enhance the ongoing transformation of U.S. animal agriculture systems to make them more sustainable. Our team of interdisciplinary scientists, educators, and extension specialists has developed a comprehensive approach to achieve this goal via objectives that (1) identify how producers and downstream value chain actors make and balance sustainability decisions, especially in response to consumer preferences and market trends and pressures related to these decisions, (2) assess how existing research on consumer animal protein preferences frames the breadth and complexity of sustainability issues related to animal welfare and environmental impact and the extent to which this is aligned or misaligned with the breadth and complexity of producers' perceptions, (3) apply an innovative educational approach to explore how the priorities and opinions of consumers about products and practices aimed at improving animal welfare and environmental impacts would change if they were informed about and weighed competing arguments, and (4) translate this knowledge into action by working closely with stakeholder communities to inform and guide messaging, outreach, and strategies through extension programs and to key partners and policymakers. Our project features the use of a dynamic set of qualitative and quantitative social science research methods with representatives of local, state, and national beef, pork, and chicken (broiler) value chains to illuminate complexity in issues, decisions, and strategies at the intersection of animal welfare and environmental impact. Study investigators will assess the breadth, framing, and complexity of how existing and commonly used consumer market trend surveys have framed sustainability issues related to meat production with consumers to capture their preferences and priorities. Together, these activities will inform the novel application of a public consultation methodology to this topic in order to design a robust education effort that can evaluate whether, how, and on which issues consumers would change their behaviors if given the requisite knowledge to assess animal agriculture complexity. Finally, this project recognizes the essential role of Extension in driving animal agriculture transformation and will use key insights from all prior activities to develop effective messages and communication practices for consumers, build trust between producers and consumers, and inform policymakers. The extension efforts will incorporate stakeholder needs and local expertise of Extension agents into activities and materials. Extension outputs will be designed to incorporate systems thinking to address complexity and inspire informed action.
Conduct research with meat producers and value chain actors to assess complexity in sustainability decision-making, especially in response to consumer preferences & market trends.Conduct scoping review of the literature to assess how previous research on consumer preferences has framed the breadth and complexity of sustainability issues related to meat production.Create, jointly offer, and evaluate a new course to test innovative public consultation methodology assessing how consumers change decisions in light of new information and opportunities to weight competing arguments.Leverage Extension to share research and educational insights about complexity and decision making that can inform effective communication practices with consumers.(full methods are described in the project proposal, exceeds character limit)