The downward trend in beef consumption coupled with the increasing rate of dissemination on the Internet of content such as photographs and videos of animal abuse has triggered an urgent response from producers and organisations promoting beef cattle production. One of the outcomes was based on the development of a project that promotes animal welfare through product certification.
Nowadays, it's easier to access information and consumers, more than never, are influenced by media, social networks, and Internet. The dissemination of information related to photos and videos of animal abuse on Internet cause a negative impression of beef production, especially on less informed consumers that often don't know or don't link the origin of beef products that they buy at the retailers. Beyond animal welfare itself, the way that animals are raised from primary production to slaughter is related to the quality of the food that goes to consumers' table and this quality is closely associated with their acceptability, according to their perceptions, needs and objectives.
Beef image on consumers depends on a lot of factors like food security, nutrition, animal welfare, impact on human health and environmental footprint. Regarding animal welfare, a project named "Welfare Quality" was created in Europe with the purpose of assessing and monitoring animal welfare in all processes of beef cattle production. In Portugal, "Certis" is the company responsible for training auditors to evaluate animal welfare from close range and identify problems that affect animal welfare on production systems and slaughterhouses.
Animals aren't the only beneficiaries of this project, once producers can benefit from this animal welfare certification by adding value to their products and fulfil consumers demands on this important subject, knowing that consumers also benefit from products with this type of certification.
Animal welfare evaluations are based primarily on the animal's appearance considering some in standardised principles that regards on good nutrition, good housing conditions, good health, and proper behaviour of animals. Once auditors finish their evaluations, they elaborate a final report, allowing producers to be aware of critic points on their production systems that can and should be improved to be suitable for "Welfare Certification" on their products.
Thinking about challenges of this process, we can highlight the formulation of standardised criteria to assess animals regardless of their production context, because as we know animal welfare is something that encompasses many factors, which are often influenced by the different types of production systems. On the other hand, willingness on the part of producers to reorganise production so that the production cycle of the animals takes place without any type of upheaval and stress can be highlighted as a key success factor. The fact of certifying animal welfare brings advantages for producers, as certified products have an added value in the market, and for consumers, in the sense that animals reared in conditions that promote animal welfare produce higher quality meat.
Literature source: Traditional and electronic farming media: Revista Limousine nº28/2020, pages 46-48 (https://www.limousineportugal.com/Revista%202020.pdf)