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Perception of animal welfare in laying hens and willingness-to-pay of eggs in consumer in Santiago, Chile.
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1  Núcleo de Investigación Aplicada en Ciencias Veterinarias y Agronómicas, Universidad de Las Américas, Chile.


The welfare of laying hens has been the subject of interest in consumers, industry and government in Chile. The current main egg production system in Chile is the intensive cage system, allowing high egg production for an increasing human population. Joint efforts have been carried out between the industry, universities and government to establish minimum welfare conditions, including the development of the Good Welfare Practices for Laying Hen Production. However, cage-free, free-range and "happy hens" eggs are commercially available and consumption is increasing rapidly in Chile. Several studies has shown that public perception is that animals in free-range or cage-free egg production systems have better animal welfare than those in more intensive systems. Some studies have shown that cage-free or free-range hens may be subjected to poorer welfare and health; others the reverse. Also, in an increasing global human population, this kind of systems seems unsustainable. We conducted a study to measure the current perception of consumers in Santiago, Chile, on the welfare of hens for egg production and the willingness-to-pay for products originating from cage-free or free range systems. Most consumers described that the welfare of hens as a "very important" issue (89,9%) and the welfare should be measured and protected (99,6%). Welfare concepts are described as "conditions that human have to provide to animals to give a good quality of life" (41%), "involves more than animal protection laws" (33%) and "the duty to respect the life of all animals" (29%). Also, 82% of consumer believed that "educating children about welfare can have a very good influence on how to treat other animals". Most consumers were interested in obtaining more information about the welfare of production animals (89,9%). Egg consumption is high with 48,2% of consumer eating more than 3 eggs each week. Interestingly, 38% of the consumer bought cage-free or free-range eggs, with 41% buying traditional (intensive farming) eggs (21% did not know the origin). Willingness-to-pay for welfare-friendly eggs is high, with 17% of consumers willing to pay more than 20% over the normal value, 12% of consumers willing to pay between 11% to 20% over normal value, 30% of consumers willing to pay between 6% to 10% over the normal value, 30% of consumers willing to pay up to 5% over current value, and only 11% of consumers would not pay more for welfare-friendly produced eggs. Results showed that consumers in the capital of city of Chile have a relative good knowledge of welfare concepts and are concerned about the welfare of laying hens. The consumers are willing to pay more for welfare-friendly produced eggs. This is the first report on these issues and may reflect the current higher interest in Chilean consumers. Welfare issues should be considered in the future to achieved a good sustainable production of eggs in Chile.

Keywords: poultry; consumer behaviour; Latin America; cage-free; free-range