Animal welfare is the number one food concern of British consumers with as many as 40% worried about the issue, according to research from Mintel.

The study also found that women are showing the greatest interest, with almost half (46%) expressing concern about the issue, compared to only a third (34%) of men.

Being of British origin (37%) and free from additives or preservatives (36%), make up the other top three food concerns, followed by a desire to have food produced locally (35%).

Mintel senior food and drink analyst Kiti Soininem commented that recent media coverage in the UK had helped to drive awareness of animal welfare, with celebrity chefs putting the spotlight on poultry and pork farming. She added that the appeal of free-range and domestic food had continued to grow, even during the recession.

The study also found that age has an enormous impact on the importance of where produce has come from.

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Almost half (44%) of over 55s are committed to British food versus only one in four (24%) of 16-24 year olds. The tendency is even stronger when it comes to local food, which is important to 20% of the youngest age group and 47% of the oldest age group.

However, only 13% of those questioned in the study said that they actively sought out local food, suggesting that the interest only translates into action for a minority of the population.

“Our research indicates that the broad interest in food origin in general, and British and local food specifically, often fails to translate into action. Securing mainstream supply can give local food products access to a pool of 14 million people nationally, who buy local food when possible, but are not willing to seek it out.

“As with many other food issues from fair trade to animal welfare, consumers are in favor of ‘doing the right thing’, as long as someone else does the work to make it happen,” Soininem adds.