The livestock industry faces various ethical issues related to environmental and animal welfare concerns (Verbeke et al., 1999). The global livestock production system is characterized by a competitive business climate and has many side effects that are unsustainable for human health, the environment, and animal welfare (Pluhar, 2010). Current livestock production is advantageous for meeting the high demand for meat at a low price, and the industry has been designed to make it faster and easier than ever to raise livestock (Anomaly, 2015; Williams, 2008). However, animals raised in a conventional livestock production system often do not have enough room to walk and live comfortably in their strictly controlled environments (Appleby et al., 2004), which is closely related to animal welfare issues. Some consumers who are concerned with these issues have shown a preference to purchase meat farmed sustainably (Aiking et al., 2006; Kumar et al., 2017; Webster, 1994). When consuming meat or dairy products, consumers have begun showing more consideration for how livestock is raised (Conner and Oppenheim, 2008; Prickett, 2008; Schnettler et al., 2008). Following this trend, the meat market is changing to meet the needs of consumers by not overusing antibiotics and improving food animals’ welfare and rights (Capper, 2013).
The importance of sustainable agriculture should also be highlighted because of the concerns about resource shortages caused by global development and population growth (Gomiero et al., 2011; Horrigan et al., 2002). Although many works in the literature deal with sustainable agriculture and have attempted to devise exact definitions for these terms, the meaning of “sustainable agriculture” is dependent on what “sustainable” and “agriculture” actually means (Yunlong and Smit, 1994). Sustainable agriculture and livestock are complex concepts (Pretty, 1995) and should include diverse aspects, such as economic, environmental, and public welfare concerns (Allen et al., 1991). As interest in sustainability increases, breeding animals in a sustainable way has also received greater attention (Thompson and Nardone, 1999). Many developed countries are striving for sustainable livestock production systems by imposing laws and regulations (Ingenbleek et al., 2012; Mench, 2008). For instance, in the U.S., there are two federal laws, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act that regulate how to treat food animals sustainably (Mench, 2008). Moreover, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) imposed certification schemes called Freedom Foods on animal welfare products in the U.K. These regulations and certifications have also led to significant changes throughout the world to certify that high levels of animal rights are observed during the farming process. There are several ways to make livestock farming more sustainable. Grazing livestock, also called pasture-based or pastoral farming, refers to raising livestock without a fence in a sustainable way (Bernués et al., 2011).
In Korea, there are also several certifications, including a farm animal welfare certification, which ensures that livestock are raised with sufficient nutrition and without unnecessary stress (Kim et al., 2013), and an antibiotic-free livestock certification, which indicates that livestock feed contains no antibiotics or hormones (Ahn et al., 2014). Thus, the raising methods can be categorized into three different types: antibiotic-free, farm animal welfare, and grazing livestock. However, there is little integrated research that has examined how and if consumers have different perceptions depending on the way livestock is raised.
Some previous studies have included experiments related to sustainable food production and consumer research, and there is a growing influence of sustainability-related labels in the global market. According to Siegrist et al. (2015), consumers who think that reducing their meat consumption is good for animals’ welfare tend to think that reducing their meat consumption has benefits for the environment. This finding could affect consumers’ purchase intentions and provide a positive direction for animal welfare efforts. One experiment on consumers’ preference and willingness to pay (WTP) for organically produced beef showed the effects of information spread on organic farming (Napolitano et al., 2010). The study’s results addressed consumers’ awareness of organic farming benefits related to production safety and ethics and demonstrated that this information increased their expectations for liking and WTP significantly. In terms of sustainable labels, consumers who perceived the existence of more environmental and social problems tended to be deeply involved in sustainable issues and purchased WTB sustainable products (Sirieix et al., 2012). Moreover, concerns related to the agricultural production process affected consumers’ attitudes toward their intention to buy meat products from sustainable farming systems (Burnier and Spers, 2019; Stampa et al., 2020). Although, previous studies have suggested that there is a positive relationship between consumer behaviors and sustainable products, consumer research related to various sustainable farming methods has been limited. Thus, an integrated view of livestock production issues is needed.
Food choices and preferences include a complex process that is related to the evaluation of sensory attributes (e.g., appearance, taste, smell, and texture) and extrinsic cues (e.g., price and information). In addition, consumers’ values and beliefs have a major impact on their purchase and consumption decisions (Finch, 2006). Cardello (1994) explained that a food-related behavior model demonstrated the process of receiving food and making related decisions. According to Cardello’s model, food is regarded as a sensory stimulus, as it includes taste, smell, texture, and visual components. Moreover, when perceiving foods, consumers interact with various elements and sensory stimuli to create food experiences.
Many factors influence the acceptance of food, but what the present study is particularly interested in is the effects of information about food. Based on this research model, we investigated the relationship between the information provided about a food and consumers’ purchase behaviors. Previous studies have conducted experiments on the relationship between information and the consumer valuation of the products. According to Pohjanheimo and Sandell (2009), product information, such as a manufacturer’s name, brand name, and so on, positively affects hedonic scores in every evaluation of drinking yogurt. Further, the word “organic” has been shown to increase consumers’ liking of and preference for organic bread (Annett et al., 2008). The availability of nutritional and health information also has a positive influence on food choices (Hellyer et al., 2012).
Very few studies to date have dealt with the relationships between various types of sustainable livestock production systems and information cues. Moreover, the exact reasons why consumers’ purchase behaviors change in a positive manner have yet to be clearly demonstrated. Therefore, we integrally investigated the relationship between the sensory evaluation and information effects of three animal-raising methods. The aims of this study were: (1) to show the difference in sensory evaluations depending on the presence or absence of information and (2) to figure out the most efficient way to raise livestock that affects consumers’ purchase behaviors. In this study, we identified three types of sustainable livestock production systems (antibiotic-free, farm animal welfare, and grazing livestock) and conducted an experiment to figure out the differences between them in consumers’ minds based on information effects.
Materials and Methods
We conducted the experiments in two separate parts. The consumer panel procedures were approved by the Seoul National University Institutional Review Board (IRB No. 1905/003-005). The participants were recruited with help-wanted advertisements in an online bulletin board. The population targeted for this study consisted of participants in their 20s and 30s. The pilot tests were also conducted in two separate periods for salami made of pork from antibiotic-free pig (SMAFP) (n=5) in January of 2019 and for salami made of pork from animal welfare pig (SMAWP) and salami made of pork from grazing pig (SMGP) (n=10) in March of 2019 in order to finalize the experimental design.
Products were obtained from Johncook Deli Meats, which is one of the processed-meat companies producing ham, sausage, bacon, barbecue, etc. in Korea. Three types of salami samples were used made from antibiotic-free pigs feeding natural ingredients, animal welfare pigs, and grazing pigs. This study selected salami as it contributes to the creation of high added-value products by processing pork legs, which are usually non-preferred parts.
Samples were offered to the participants immediately after receiving the cut salami. Salami samples (a semicircle with a radius of 1.5 cm and height of 0.3 cm) were given to the participants (two pieces per person). Participants were instructed to rinse their mouths with tepid water after tasting a sample.
The salami used in this study was a type of Italian-style cured salami that is processed by fermentation and drying. We especially focused on three kinds of pork that were from antibiotic-free, farm animal welfare, and grazing pigs. These salamis were used to estimate the association among sustainable information, sensory evaluation, and purchase behaviors.
The experiment was conducted as a within-subject design. The participants were randomly assigned to 12 groups to minimize the ordering effects. All the experiments had four situations (two samples * with/without information). Table 1 and Fig. 1 show a summary of the experiment design. The experiment was planned in two tests. In the first test, the participants received SMAFP (S641, S492) and SMPG (S537, S189) which were not analysis targets and in the second test, they were offered SMAWP (S518, S117) and SMPG (S948, S179) according to randomization to minimize ordering effects.
The survey consisted of two parts, and all the constructs were selected and transformed from previous research. The first part dealt with sensory evaluation including flavor and texture attributes. The sensory test questionnaire was first created from previous literature about fermented sausage sensory properties (Cenci-Goga et al., 2008; Marangoni and de Moura, 2011), and we then modified the items by expert sensory panels. Finally, 12 sensory features were selected with five tastes, four flavors, and three textures. Table 2 shows the definition of each profile and the additional meanings used in the survey. The sensory properties were measured by a 7-point Likert scale (1=“never” to 7=“extremely”). The second part was related to purchase behavior including satisfaction, willingness to buy, and price premium. The satisfaction scale was adopted from Juhl et al. (2002) and dealt with consumers’ satisfaction and loyalty in European food retailing; we changed the words to suit salami-purchasing situations. The willingness-to-buy scale was selected and transformed from Dodds et al. (1991)’s measurements. Those two questionnaires were answered using a five-point Likert scale (1=“strongly disagree” to 5=“strongly agree”). The price premium question stated the price of the original price of salami (200 g), and we asked respondents to answer the price they were willing to pay for the new salami. In social science studies, a significance level of 0.1 is often used to verify whether a factor is significant. Several studies dealing with sensory evaluation showed not only the level of 0.05 but also 0.1 statistically significant testing (Chakraborty et al., 2011; Moloney et al., 2011; Mudgil et al., 2017; Sánchez-Molinero and Arnau, 2010), so this study also indicated up to the level of 0.1.
|Profile||Definition||The additional meanings we used||Reference|
|Flavor||Salty||Taste elicited by salts||Taste when you eat salt||Maughan et al., 2012, p. 117|
|Sour||Taste elicited by acids||Taste when you eat vinegar||Maughan et al., 2012, p. 117|
|Sweet||Taste elicited by sugar||Taste when you eat sugar||Maughan et al., 2012, p. 117|
|Umami||Fundamental taste sensation of which MSG is typical||Taste that attracts appetite||Hwang and Hong, 2013, p. 116|
|Nutty||Aromatics associated with nuts such as peanut or walnut||Taste from roasted sesame oil||Hwang and Hong, 2013, p. 116|
|Odor||Milky||Odor of whipping milk||Odor from milk or powdered milk||Kaaki et al., 2012, p. 523|
|Cheesy||Odor of yellow ripened cheese, resemblance to the odor of Parmesan cheese powder||A luxurious odor of fermentation||Jinjarak et al., 2006, p. 2431|
|Rancid||Odor associated with oxidized oils/old butter||Unpleasant odors of fermentation||Jinjarak et al., 2006, p. 2431|
|Fishy||The aromatics or volatiles which are derived from fish products perceived by smell||A nauseous smell from raw beans or fish||Ritthiruangdej and Suwonsichon, 2006, p. 183|
|Texture||Gummy||Denseness that persists throughout mastication or the energy require to disintegrate a semisolid food to a state ready for swallowing||The power required to crush semi-solid foods enough to swallow||Cardello et al., 1982, p. 1191|
|Moist||Degree of fluids present in the sample mass during the first 3–5 chews||The amount of moisture detected on the sample surface||Lyon, 1980, p. 1342|
|Mouth-coating||Degree to which the mouth remains coated after expectoration||The degree of fat or oil coated on the mouth after chewing the sample||Jinjarak et al., 2006, p. 2431|
The demographic profile of the respondents that participated in the experiment is presented in Table 3. The study sample consisted of 22 males and 28 females in Group 1 (n=50) and 44 males and 46 females in Group 2 (n=90) for a total of 140 participants.
The collected data were averaged and analyzed using principal component analysis (PCA). Fig. 2 is a sensory map of the results of the PCA in which 80% of the variance was explained. It demonstrates the characteristics of the samples. The PCA map depicts three groupings of salami samples based on the ways the pigs were raised, with the sensory attributes noted accordingly. The sensory map shows how a salami’s flavors, odor, and texture changed according to the effects of the revealed information.
The SMAFP in both the blind (S492) and revealed conditions (S641) were characterized as salty, gummy, and sour. The participants perceived salami to be saltier without any given information (S492). The results show that participants considered salami to be less salty when they had information about its antibiotic-free nature (S641).
The SMAWP in both the blind (S117) and revealed conditions (S518) were grouped and characterized by sensory attributes that include milky, mouth-coating, and cheesy. The SMAWP with the information given (S518) had a stronger cheesy flavor, while the SMAWP without information (S117) had a stronger milky flavor. It can be interpreted that when the information was revealed concerning the pigs’ animal welfare conditions, participants perceived it to have stronger cheesy odor than milky odor.
The SMGP in both the blind (S179) and revealed conditions (S948) were characterized as rancid and fishy. For the SMGP with the revealed information (S948), participants rated the salami as sourness and sweetness, compared to the salami without any given information (S179).
To statistically examine the changes in the ratings of the flavor, odor, and texture and the consumers’ preferences based on the blind and informed conditions, this study conducted paired t-tests to compare the results. We found minor changes in flavors and texture based on the product information, but noted that participants reported higher satisfaction levels and a heightened willingness to buy and pay more in the informed condition.
For the SMAFP, there was a significant difference (p<0.05) in flavor (Table 4). In contrast to the salami made from the pork of grazing pigs, the participants considered this salami to be more sour in the blind condition (S492). The participants had a higher purchase intention (p<0.1) and WTP for the salami in the informed condition (p<0.01) (Table 5). They were willing to pay more, about 647 Korean won (60 cents USD), for the 200 g of salami when the information was revealed. In contrast, there was no difference in terms of the consumers’ satisfaction for this salami between the blind and informed conditions.
|Willingness to pay||50||–647.00||–2.879||0.005|
For the SMAWP, there was a difference in texture and gumminess (p<0.1), and participants considered the salami to be gummier in the blind condition (Table 6). Moreover, there was a significant difference in their satisfaction (p<0.1), purchase intention (p<0.05), and WTP more (p<0.01) based on the effects of the revealed information (Table 7). According to these results, the participants showed high levels of satisfaction and purchase intention for salami in the informed condition. Participants were willing to pay more, about 868 Korean won (80 cents USD), for 200 g of the salami in the informed condition.
|Willingness to pay||90||–868.738||–3.894||0.000|
Lastly, for the SMGP, there were significant differences (p<0.01) in the flavor and texture between the salamis in the blind and informed conditions (Table 8). Participants considered the salami to be more sour, sweet, and moist when its information was revealed. Additionally, the participants had higher satisfaction levels (p<0.1), purchase intention (p<0.05), and were more willing to buy in the informed condition (p<0.01) (Table 9). They were willing to pay more, about 637 Korean won (60 cents USD), for the 200 g of salami when the information was revealed.
|Willingness to pay||50||–637.401||–2.965||0.003|
As realizing the ethical issueson meat consumption, consumers have lots of interest in sustainable livestock. Due to increasing levels of interest in sustainable agriculture in recent years, many previouspapers have started to look at the sustainable livestock systems in terms of economical, environmental, purchase behavior, and so on (Garcia et al., 2017; Kaufmann, 2015; Lebacq et al., 2013). There are, however, little research has investigated the types of sustainable livestock in terms of consumer behavior. This study was the first to conduct a sensory evaluation regarding the three kinds of animal raising styles and to identify the effects of revealing the information on purchase behavior.
The main purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of sustainability-related information on sensory evaluations and consumers’ purchase behaviors. Existing papers dealing with meat and sustainability-related information collected the data only through surveys to investigate consumers’ characteristics or factors affecting purchase intentions (Hoek et al., 2017; Mohr and Schlich, 2015). Thus, this study added sensory experiments to understand consumers’ purchase behavior more deeply.
Before analyzing the effects of revealing information, this study used PCA and found that salami produced from pork using three different animal raising methods—antibiotic-free, farm animal welfare, and grazing—had different sensory attributes. From these results, we can state that consumers perceived the taste of salami produced from farm animal welfare pork to be milky, mouth-coating, and cheesy. Salami made from the antibiotic-free pork was characterized by its saltiness, gumminess, and sourness. Lastly, participants perceived salami made from the pork of grazing pigs as rancid and fishy.
The absence or presence of information had a significant effect on the consumers’ purchase behaviors, which included satisfaction, purchase intention, and WTP. Participants were willing to pay more for salami in all three informed conditions. This result indicates that consumers believe salami made from pigs that are raised in a sustainable environment and using humane methods is usually more expensive and valuable than other salami. The results of this study are consistent with de-Magistris and Gracia (2016) and motivates for producers to do sustainable agriculture. Several studies also demonstrated that consumers have an increasing interest in farming practices and show their WTP more for products obtained using sustainable production systems (Dransfield et al., 2005). Participants showed high satisfaction and purchase intention in the informed condition for salami made from both the animal welfare and grazing pigs. It is the first time we know a paper that investigated the way livestock are raised and found the differences in WTP and buy, and satisfaction. Therefore, this study contributes to a better understanding of sustainable livestock.
The information about sustainable livestock production had a positive influence on participants’ perceptions and their purchase behaviors. These results correspond with previous studies that show product information, such as brand names and ethical values, have an influence on consumers’ liking and preference for a product (Napolitano et al., 2010; Sirieix et al., 2012; Vraneševic and Stančec, 2003). Information influences consumers’ intentions to purchasecrucially (Bower et al., 2003; Kihlberg et al., 2005). Therefore, it is important to know what information based on livestock-rearing practices could affect consumers’ purchase behaviors. In this study, among the three types of salami produced using sustainable practices, participants were willing to pay the most for animal welfare salamis when this information was revealed. This finding shows that consumers are willing to pay higher premiums for specific sustainable products. Moreover, the results indicate that purchasing behaviors for sustainable products are affected not only by ethical issues but also by the different cognitions of taste. Taste preferences can be affected by cognitive factors, such as information (Bower et al., 2003), so information can make the situation change so that the same taste is perceived in different ways. With the above in mind, this study offers practical information for understanding consumers’ sensory evaluations and purchase behaviors. Thus, marketers and farmers can effectively use sustainable information publicly and employ it as one of the important marketing factors that may both satisfy consumers and sustain the welfare conditions of their animals.
A number of studies have examined food choices and preferences based on sensory attributes and extrinsic cues from an academic standpoint (Deliza and MacFie, 1996; Murray and Delahunty, 2000). However, very few studies have investigated sustainable livestock production from consumers’ perspectives. This study examined whether or not consumers’ sensory evaluations, including flavor, odor, and texture, and their purchase behavior change based on the information provided. The results confirmed that consumers’ behaviors and responses in the informed condition changed their sensory evaluations, and the effects were different depending on the production method. The results of this study support Cardello’s model that food is regarded as sensory stimulus and that consumers relate with various factors, including the information about the food, to create their food experiences (Cardello, 1994).
The present study has focused on understanding various aspects of sustainable livestock production by evaluating the differences in consumers’ sensory evaluations, perceptions, and purchase behaviors depending on the presence or absence of information regarding livestock production methods. This implies that sustainability-related information can positively affect consumers’ purchase behavior, and this is the first paper that has compared the results of sensory tests and purchase behaviors between present and absent information situations in terms of detailed classifications of sustainable livestock. This study is intended to be a useful source for further empirical research on sustainable livestock products.
While the results of this study provide a useful guideline for sustainable livestock marketers, it also has several limitations. First, this study only dealt with pigs raised in three types (antibiotic-free pigs, animal welfare pigs, and grazing pigs), but it seems that further research is needed on livestock raised in other sustainable ways and products other than salami to examine the sensory evaluation and purchasing behavior of consumers. Further studies are needed to include various kinds of livestock to understand these issues more deeply and to generalize the results. Second, to obtain more reliable and accurate research results, future studies should investigate the sustainable markets of other countries with participants from various sample groups. We only conducted surveys in Korea, so a sampling bias could be one error of this study. If future studies extend the methods presented here and include other populations, the results could be confirmed and extended further.
This study demonstrated the effects of sustainability-related information on consumers’ sensory evaluations and purchase behaviors. Despite evaluating the same products, there were some factors that made consumers feel differently based on sensory attributes under the absence and presence of information. This study confirmed that sensory evaluations are affected by external cues. Moreover, when sustainability information was provided to participants, their satisfaction and purchase intention increased in a positive way. In addition, the price premium of sustainable livestock varied positively with the types of information. In conclusion, this study investigated consumers’ needs for sustainable livestock farming and provides meat producers and marketers with guidelines on how to effectively promote sustainable livestock to consumers.