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Consumer preferences for improved hen housing: Is a cage a cage?

There is growing concern amongst some consumers regarding animal welfare in livestock production. Several regions, including California and the European Union, have banned the use of battery cage production systems for laying hens. In Quebec, battery cages are being phased out with new barns required to be equipped with enriched cages. In this paper, the empirical data from two discrete choice experiments (DCE) are used to understand Quebec consumers’ demand for alternative laying hen housing systems and desired attributes. The results of the first DCE suggest that Quebec consumers are not willing to pay a premium for eggs produced in enriched cage systems, in spite of evidence that they prefer aspects of that system. Using an online survey we find that consumers have a negative stigma related to the word ‘cage’. A second DCE is therefore conducted to estimate consumer preferences for different amenities commonly found in enriched cage systems, without the possible negative framing effect from the word “cage”. The results suggest that consumers have a positive value for the enhanced housing system for laying hens, results also indicate a differentiated demand for the various elements of the enhanced system.
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