Consumer perception is everything and expecting them to have a detailed understanding of animal welfare or expecting them to pay a premium for it when they don't really know where food comes from is too much. This was the message given to pig and poultry producers by supermarket chain Morrisons' head of agriculture David Evans at conference held in the UK recently.

"Changing consumer attitudes is challenging, and if you want to get them to understand, it can only be done with a simple message," he continued.

Attendees at the Pig and Poultry Fair, held in Warwickshire, UK, were further told that pig and poultry producers need to be braver in talking about what happens on their farms if consumers are to be driven to more high-welfare, home-grown food.

National Farmers Union president, Peter Kendall, added: "Animal welfare is all about perception and that's why we need to engage with our customers. Without that discussion, the danger is that UK producers are forced to have higher standards through regulation, but retailers import cheaper foods from elsewhere.

"Animal welfare is a difficult, emotive debate and we need to have an honest discussion if we are going to give consumers a reason to pick British food," he said.