Public Opinion Surveys on Farm Animal Welfare
Surveys reliably show that the American public cares deeply about farm animals and wants them to be protected from suffering. Below are a collection of national polls commissioned by the ASPCA exploring public opinion about farm animals, food labeling and undercover investigations on farms. To learn more or for media inquiries, contact [email protected].
2022 Public-facing Survey
A nationally representative online survey of 5,000 adults conducted in June of 2022 confirms widespread public concern about farm animal welfare and underestimation of the scale of factory farming in the US.
- About half of respondents to a recent survey conducted by the ASPCA reported that their concern over farm animal welfare motivated them to buy higher-welfare meat, eggs, and dairy.
- 44 percent of respondents to a recent survey conducted by the ASPCA reported that their concern for farm animal welfare motivated them to reduce their animal product consumption.
- 80% of (or 8 out of 10) respondents to a recent survey conducted by the ASPCA overestimated the proportion of animals raised for meat, eggs, and dairy in the US raised on pasture/outdoors, which is less than 10%.
- Only 2 out of 10 respondents to a recent survey conducted by the ASPCA knew that over 90% of animals raised for meat, eggs, and dairy in the US are raised on factory farms.
2022 Survey on Public Perception of Animal Welfare in the USDA Organic Program
A nationwide, online survey of 1,500 organic consumers [PDF] commissioned by the ASPCA and the Animal Welfare Institute and conducted in September 2022 confirms that the overwhelming majority of organic consumers want higher-welfare standards for animals on organic farms and believe the federal government should implement animal welfare standards quickly.
- 80% of organic consumers say animal welfare is important to them when considering whether to purchase organic animal products.
- 85% of organic consumers think it is important that the federal government establish clear, uniform standards for animal welfare on organic farms.
- 84% of organic consumers think animal welfare standards for organic farming should meet or exceed standards required under third-party animal welfare certification programs, such as indoor and outdoor space requirements for all animals, necessary enrichments to carry out natural behaviors, and standards around transport and slaughter.
- 92% of organic consumers identified timelines of three years or less as acceptable timeframes for companies that are currently certified to comply with any new animal welfare standards. 75% of organic consumers believed compliance should occur within one year or less.
2020 Survey on COVID-19’s Impact on Public Attitudes Toward Factory Farming
A nationwide, online survey of 1,000 American adults [PDF] commissioned by the ASPCA and conducted in August 2020 (roughly six months into the pandemic) confirms that this particular crisis has increased public awareness and concern about industrial animal agriculture, changed consumption choices and impacted support for public policies to reform the industry.
- The vast majority (89%) of Americans are concerned about industrial animal agriculture, citing animal welfare, worker safety, public health risks or the environment as a concern.
- 85% of farmers and their families support a complete ban on new industrial animal agriculture facilities—almost twice the level of support expressed by the general public.
- 82% of respondents believe that the government should mandate slower slaughter speeds to protect workers, animals or public health, with a majority (61%) in support of reserving government funds for farmers whose practices are more humane, safer for workers, and reduce the risk of future pandemics.
- Two-thirds (65%) of the public reported that they believe poor worker protections and harsh working conditions increase inhumane treatment of farm animals, with more than half (57%) believing that this mistreatment increases public health risks.
- 72% of those surveyed who recently heard about animal welfare, worker safety or public health issues related to industrial factory farming reported seeking out alternatives to factory-farmed meat, eggs and dairy since the start of the pandemic—either buying more from local farms, shifting to products with more assurance of animal welfare or consuming less meat, eggs or dairy.
2020 Survey on Consumers’ Intentions When Purchasing Animal-Sourced Products with Welfare-Related Labels
A nationally representative online survey of 1,000 American grocery shoppers commissioned by the ASPCA and conducted by Lake Research Partners confirms that consumers who buy animal-sourced foods including meat, eggs and dairy are motivated to seek out and pay for improved animal welfare, but they are confused about which labels represent higher-welfare production practices compared to conventional practices.
The survey findings confirm that consumers incorrectly associate many labels with improved animal welfare, even if some of these labels do not have set standards for production practices that improve animal welfare. Results from this survey were published in the journal Food Ethics on June 18, 2022, and this study adds to the existing literature base indicating that labels do not provide sufficient information to enable American consumers to align their purchases with their preferences for higher-welfare animal-sourced products.
- 83% reported that they would be likely to switch to a meat, egg or dairy brand that guaranteed the products came from farm animals raised under higher animal welfare standards.
- 86% of shoppers reported purchasing at least one product with the following labels in the past year: cage- or crate-free, free-range, pasture-raised, natural, organic, no hormone, no antibiotic, no rBST, humane, vegetarian-fed, grass-fed, or farm-raised.
- Of those who purchased products with one of the above labels, 89% did so because they thought the label indicated higher-welfare production practices, and 79% consciously paid more for the product with the label because of this interpretation.
- 43% reported purchasing egg, meat or dairy products with a third-party certification specifying animal welfare in the label (Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved, G.A.P. Animal Welfare Certified, or American Humane Certified). Of those who reported that they purchased a product with one of these four third-party certifications specifying animal welfare, up to 59% reported also purchasing a non-certified label because they thought it indicated humane treatment.
2020 Government Support for Higher Welfare Farming
A nationwide, online survey [PDF] of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted in January 2020, commissioned by the ASPCA, shows that the public believes that setting and enforcing clear label definitions and supporting farmers transitioning to more humane practices should be a government responsibility.
- Around three-fourths of consumers (76%) think that the government should be enforcing clear definitions for food labels related to animal welfare.
- Around three-fourths of consumers (74%) think that the government should be supporting farmers transitioning to more humane practices.
- A majority of consumers (65%) also think that public institutions should only purchase meat, eggs and dairy products from animals raised more humanely.
2019 Certified Eggs: A Certifiable Success Story
A case study [PDF] from data collected by Nielsen in 2016 and 2018 on egg sales shows that the market for welfare-certified eggs is growing while sales of eggs bearing weakly defined or loosely regulated welfare claims, like “natural” and “hormone-free,” are declining and may be increasingly met with suspicion by discerning consumers.
- Sales of eggs with unsubstantiated welfare claims decreased between 2016-2018, compared to the sales of eggs carrying one of the three ASPCA recommended certifications, which have grown 57% since 2016.
- Certified eggs are now in 68% of mainstream grocery stores nationally, which represents a 13-point increase since 2016.
2018 Animal Welfare Labeling and Consumer Concern Survey
This 2018 survey [PDF] followed up on a similar survey conducted in 2016. It shows that an overwhelming majority of consumers continue to be concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food and are making food choices to address this concern. Consumers show high levels of desire for animal welfare-conscious products where they shop, where they eat and in schools, and a willingness to pay more for reassurance about better treatment for farm animals. A majority of consumers also reported that at least one member of their household was considering a change in diet relating to the quantity or type of animal products consumed.
- Seventy-six percent of consumers say they are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food. High levels of concern are found across demographic groups, regardless of gender, age, race, education, party identification or household income.
- In 2016, 24% of consumers said that they recognized at least one of three welfare certification labels considered meaningful by the ASPCA; in 2018, that percentage increased significantly to 39%.
- Nearly 40% of consumers wrongly believe that an objective third party designed to check on the welfare of animals on farms already exists.
- Eighty-six percent of consumers think that there should be an objective third party checking on the welfare of animals on farms, an increase from 2016.
- Three-fourths of consumers say that they would be likely to switch to meat, eggs and dairy products with labels that guarantee that the products came from farm animals who were raised according to higher animal welfare standards. This finding extends across demographics, including gender, age, and race.
- A majority of consumers report that at least one member of their household is considering increasing their consumption of humanely raised meat, eggs and/or dairy products. Half of the households report a likely increase in consumption of vegetarian foods. One in seven reports at least one member of the household becoming a vegetarian, with one in 10 indicating that at least one member is considering becoming vegan.
2018 Technomic Supermarket Retailer Survey
This survey executed by Technomic shows that supermarket industry decision-makers are motivated to stock products that promise better animal welfare, and are seeing the benefits of doing so through strong sales. It also reveals that retailers largely do not understand the differences between animal welfare claims.
- 30% of supermarket decision-makers are interested in stocking more products specifically describing humane treatment of animals.
- 70% of those stocking products with humane claims report that sales from these products have increased over the past three years.
- 45% of those surveyed who reported stocking products with humane claims said they had done so for over two years, indicating sustained sales.
- 70% of supermarket industry decision-makers believe they have a good understanding of the meaning of terms related to animal rearing.
- More than 70% of supermarket industry decision-makers believe they have a (very or somewhat) good understanding of the meaning of terms related to animal rearing, yet those surveyed considered many unverified or irrelevant claims like "natural" and "hormone-free" to be strong animal welfare assurances, sometimes considering them more highly than verified animal welfare certification claims.
- For example, 95% of supermarket industry decision-makers felt that “cage-free” was a strong animal welfare claim on chicken meat products, despite the fact that cages are not used to raise chickens for meat.
This 2016 survey shows that the vast majority of Americans are concerned about farm animal welfare and are willing to pay more for better treatment of animals, but are confused by food labels.
- 77% of consumers say that they are concerned about the welfare of animals that are raised for food.
- 78% of consumers think that there should be an objective third-party checking on the welfare of animals on farms.
- 74% of consumers say they are paying more attention to the labels that pertain to how an animal was raised than they were five years ago.
- 75% of consumers want their stores to carry a greater variety of welfare-certified meat, eggs and dairy products.
- 67% of consumers would purchase welfare-certified products, even when it means a modest increase in price.
- There are widespread misconceptions about what common labels actually mean for animal welfare. For example, 65 percent of consumers surveyed believe the term “free-range” ensures that the animal spent most of its time in a pasture. But in reality, there is no legal definition of “free-range” for pork, beef or dairy products. On poultry products, birds must have access to the outdoors, but the size, duration and quality of that outdoor experience is not defined.
2014 Chicken Survey
This 2014 survey shows that consumers overwhelmingly want more humanely raised chicken and wish there were more options in stores.
- 81% of respondents feel it is important that the chickens they eat be humanely raised.
- 78% of chicken consumers surveyed feel that raising chickens humanely leads to safer chicken products.
- 76% of chicken consumers surveyed wish there were more humanely-raised chicken options available at their local grocery stores.
- Less than one-third of respondents trust the companies that make chicken products to treat their chickens in a humane fashion.
2014 Organic Survey
This 2014 survey identified big gaps between consumer expectations and USDA requirements for the National Organic Program. American consumers assume—and would support—higher animal welfare standards under the USDA’s National Organic Program.
- 55% of organic consumers believe that the USDA Organic certification indicates humane treatment of farm animals.
- 68% of organic consumers assume that animals in the program have access to outdoor pasture and fresh air throughout the day, but there is currently no clear requirement for the type and length of outdoor access.
- More than 90% of organic consumers support a much higher standard of “access to the outdoors” than is currently in place under the National Organic Program.
2013 Broiler Chicken Survey
This 2013 survey indicates that once consumers are given information about the conditions in which broiler chickens are raised, confidence in health and safety plummets while concern about chicken welfare and the desire to purchase humanely raised chicken rises dramatically.
- 53% of consumers who do not primarily buy humanely raised chicken say they do not buy this chicken because they do not know whether the chicken is in fact raised humanely.
- After they were given information about the conditions in which chickens are raised, only 50% of consumers were confident that most of the chicken they purchased was safe to eat and only 39% were confident that the chicken they purchased came from chicken farms that have sanitary conditions.
- After they were given information about the conditions in which chickens are raised, only 35% were confident that the chicken they purchased was raised humanely (compared to 60% initially).
- After they were given information about the conditions in which chickens are raised, 86% of consumers said that they were more likely to buy chicken products from animals that are raised more humanely and are healthy.
2012 Ag-Gag Survey
This 2012 survey indicates that the American public opposes so-called “ag-gag” legislation.
- 71% of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms, including 54% who strongly support the efforts.
- 64% of Americans oppose making undercover investigations of animal abuse on industrial farms illegal, with half of all Americans strongly opposing legislative efforts to criminalize investigations on industrial farms.
- 94% of Americans feel that it is important to have measures in place to ensure that food coming from farms is safe to eat.
- 94% of Americans agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty.