Intensive livestock production devoid of elementary foundations for the welfare of farm animals is nowadays identified as one of the main factors contributing to the growing environmental and social threats. Public opinion associates the welfare of farm animals with values relating to health, food quality, ethical approach to animals and protection of the environment and climate. Accordingly, the social conceptualization of farm animal welfare plays an important role in guiding EU policy and developing animal welfare law. It also becomes a prerequisite for solving social and environmental problems resulting from intensive animal production.
Farm animal welfare is an intangible and credence attribute of food and as such requires a means of informing consumers about it. The most preferred form of communication about the welfare level of farm animals among consumers are farm animal welfare labels. Both consumer preferences and their expectations of how farm animal welfare is communicated are reflected in the development of public and private food labelling systems in the European Union.
Therefore, the main aim of the study was to analyse the selected farm animal welfare voluntary labelling schemes in terms of their potential for the development of sustainable animal production in the EU. The result of the study shows the differences and similarities in this respect between public and private systems, in relation to four criteria - values associated by consumers with the welfare of farm animals - health, food quality, ethics and environmental protection.
We provide an overview of these systems and their role in increasing farm animal welfare standards. We conclude that it is particularly important to verify if the shift from production-related concern to social and consumer-related concern can constitute a sufficient and effective form for a systemic change transforming current animal production into production based on higher livestock welfare standards.