A recent survey of U.S. consumers about their purchase intentions and willingness to pay premiums for cage-free eggs and breast meat from slow-growing broilers showed that willingness to pay a premium could be affected by information provided to consumers as part of the survey. Information from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and from the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply study each impacted willingness to pay a premium for cage-free eggs, but in opposite directions.

The results of these consumer studies, which were conducted on behalf of the Food Marketing Institute, Animal Agriculture Alliance and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, are summarized in the article, "Cage-free eggs, slow-growth broilers: Will consumers pay?," in the June 2018 issue of Egg Industry. These studies once again show how little consumers know about current U.S. poultry husbandry practices. They also demonstrate that messaging crafted to educate consumers on how these birds are raised and housed can influence self-reported willingness to pay a premium for either cage-free eggs or breast meat from slow-growing broilers.

Presenting the facts surrounding broiler and egg production to consumers can influence buying intentions, which is the good news. The bad news is that the messaging used in the survey had existed in the public domain for months prior to the study.

The challenge for the poultry industry is to get the information in front of consumers in a manner where they will pay attention. The survey participants were a captive audience, but that isn’t the case for the other 300 million-plus U.S. consumers. The poultry industry needs to get its messaging in front of consumers in a compelling way. The future of how birds are raised in the U.S. will hinge as much, or more, on how consumers feel about husbandry practices as it will on science.