The Economics and Ethics of Farm Animal Welfare - The Case of Chick Culling and its Alternatives
von Corrina Reithmayer
Datum der mündl. Prüfung:2020-01-27
Betreuer:Prof. Dr. Oliver Mußhoff
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. Achim Spiller
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. Guido Recke
EnglischThe use of highly specialized breeds in poultry production has led to the situation in which fattening layer-type males is not economically viable, when competing with conventional broiler meat. The vast majority of male layer chicks are therefore culled soon after hatching. Ethical concern about this practice has led to a public debate in a number of western countries, its tenor seems unambiguous: the practice should end. Political and industrial representatives have also promoted putting an end to chick culling. The two alternatives which are already available or soon to be on the market in a number of countries are dual-use poultry production and in ovo gender determination. However, the alternatives are also not free from controversy as they raise new ethical dilemmas and increase production cost. Dual-use poultry production is associated with a less efficient use of resources and therefore a higher environmental burden, due to a higher use of feed and water, and a higher manure output compared to the current specialized production scheme. Also in ovo gender determination can be criticized out of moral reasons, as it is associated with the destruction of a viable embryo. Besides these ethical considerations, chick-culling-free production systems are followed by economic consequences. Production costs and consumer prices of associated products, specifically eggs, will rise. The presented doctoral dissertation analyzes consumer attitudes and willingness to pay towards these two alternatives to the practice of chick culling. Findings from four studies associated with two surveys including discrete choice experiments and attitudinal questions are presented. The anonymous online surveys were conducted in Germany in 2018 and 2019. The first two presented studies analyze data obtained from the first survey, whereas the third and fourth studies refer to the second one. The first study investigates respondents’ aggregate preferences and willingness to pay for eggs from different production systems “without chick culling” by the application of random parameter logit models in preference and WTP space.Besides that preferences for certifying bodies in the context of farm animal welfare labeling are investigated and discussed. The second study presents insights from a latent class analysis. Findings show that there is considerable heterogeneity in preferences, which can be depicted in different consumer segments. Consumer segments differ significantly in socioeconomic characteristics, price sensitivity and attitudes towards chick culling alternatives. In ovo gender determination is supposed to substitute chick culling as an industry standard in Germany in the near future. Societal concerns and expectations towards different characteristics of the in ovo technique, as for example the day of gender determination and the usage of by-products, are analyzed in the third study. The distribution of these expectations is investigated through an explorative factor analysis and a latent class analysis. The fourth study of the dissertation investigates the influence of pictures on societal attitudes towards the in ovo technique. Results from the choice experiment are analyzed by estimating random parameters logit models in WTP space. Findings reveal that pictures of incubated eggs or chicks strongly influence consumer attitudes and can be considered relevant triggers of societal attention and concern. The dissertation provides comprehensive, in-depth insights into societal attitudes towards the economical and ethical problems associated with the practice of chick culling and its alternatives. The debate about culling day-old chicks is the prime example of an ethically complex and emotionally debated animal welfare problem. It can furthermore be seen as exemplary for concerns about other areas of modern, specialized livestock production. Findings are valuable for a productive dialogue between consumers, producers and political decision makers, which offers opportunities for a sustainable change to a more ethical production scheme, which is more accessible for consumers and presents marketing possibilities for producers.
Keywords: chick; culling; discrete choice; egg; consumer; in ovo; dual-use poultry