Susanne Kendell
Institute of Market Analysis


Bundesallee 63
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5302
Fax: +49 531 596 5399



 (c) aid.infodienst, Bonn, P. Meyer

SocialLab – Society's perception of animal husbandry

Actually, almost no day passes without new critical headlines concerning animal husbandry. It seems that animal husbandry does no longer match consumers’ expectations or societal needs. But what are these expectations and needs? And what about the farmers? How do they feel if they are put under general suspicion torturing their animals?

Background and Objective

During the last years, current systems in modern animal husbandry have been topic in public discussions. It seems that animal husbandry does no longer match consumers’ expectations or societal needs; criticism is increasing. Actually, almost no day passes without new critical articles concerning animal husbandry. These articles are often written very emotional and/or critical.

But what do citizens, who have no relation to agriculture or even animal production, really think about modern animal husbandry? What do they perceive and what do they expect? Many of them still have a romantic view on animal husbandry and will be shocked if they see the facts as they are. And what about the farmers, traders and NGO’s? What do they perceive, expect and feel?

Perception, criticism as well as expectations of animal husbandry will vary a lot between different societal groups. There are many points of criticism towards animal husbandry: Some people talk about mass production if there are about 100 pigs in a stable and interpret this size in a very negative way. Others even cannot understand that 5000 pigs in a stable should be too much. Some mainly care about medical treatments and others about mutilations. But what other points of criticism do exist and which ones are the most criticized? Is it the lack of space, medical treatment or something totally different? And what about the influence of the media?

These are just a few questions that will be answered within the project “SocialLab”.


The project consists of four working packages with 12 satellite projects and is coordinated at the Thünen-Institute.

For each research question qualitative, quantitative and/or imagine methods will be combined. In the beginning fundamentals of societal perception towards animal husbandry in Germany will be analysed. Research will also focus on varying points of view of different stakeholders within the supply chain (farmers, suppliers, NGOs, consumers, citizens). Results will contribute to an understanding of the gap between different societal groups and the business of animal husbandry. Furthermore, research projects with a direct focus on animal breeds or animal systems will benefit as they receive a direct feedback of their work from different societal groups.

Data and Methods

Depending on the research question qualitative, quantitative and/or imagine methods will be combined.

Focus groups or expert interviews will be used to elicit respondents’ perceptions, attitudes, opinions and/or expectations towards animal husbandry.

Based on outcomes of the focus groups surveys (mainly online-surveys) will be carried out to quantify the results. The data will be analysed using different statistical, multivariate or econometric analysis.

Content analyses and the framing approach will be used to analyse the most read German newspapers and the specialist press.

The universities of Düsseldorf and Friedrichshafen use (inter alia) imagine methods, like functional magnetic resonance imaging, are used to analyse the neural underpinnings of decision making.

Gruppendiskussion (© Neoplas)
Fragebogen (© Thünen-Institut für MA)
fNIRS (© Tina Strombach)

Preliminary Results

First results of task 3.3: Consumers' view

Within this task Thünen-Institute of Market Analysis analsed consumers' attitude towards farm animal husbandry.

The analysis is based on an online survey conducted with TU Munich with 1,419 respondents in Germany in spring 2016. Respondents faced 36 items on a seven-point Likert scale about different aspects of farm animal husbandry ranging from proposed improvements to statements focussing on the necessity of current animal husbandry practices. 

An exploratory factor analysis was carried out to define the underlying structure in the data matrix. The seven-point Likert scale of the 36 items ranged from ‘‘I totally agree’’ to ‘‘I do not agree at all’’. Five factors were identified accounting for 59.42 % of error variance.These factors are: support of an efficient production, animals’ needs, trust in experts, support of justified mutilations and rejection of pharmaceutical treatment. 

Based upon the findings of the exploratory factor analysis a cluster analysis was conducted to assign respondents to groups. Three clusters were identified: supporters of efficient animal husbandry without consideration of animals’ needs (36 %), opponents of an efficiency driven husbandry (28 %), and those evaluating pros and cons (36 %). 


First results of task 4.2: The dual purpose chicken - more than a niche?

In June 2016, we conducted six focus groups with each 6 to 8 participants in Berlin, Munich and Cloppenburg (intensive poultry region in Lower Saxony). All participants were consumers of eggs as well as chicken meat.

The topic killing of day-old male chicks was addressed in every focus group without being mentioned by the moderator. Most of the participants stated to know about this practice. Regardless, many discussants expressed their disgust at the killing of day-old chicks. Statements such as “imagine, they were humans. Shredding the boys and feeding them to animals. That’s terrifying”  underline that humanization of farm animals. Most of the discussants agreed that the killing of chicks is clearly unacceptable from the moral point of view and they demanded to stop the practice. Others claimed that the chicken would be killed anyway and that it does not matter if sooner or later. Asked for alternatives few were known by the participants. Sex determination in the egg was the alternative that was mostly known. Some participants also mentioned the fattening of layer type males as a potential alternative to the killing of day-old chicks whereas the use of dual-chicken breeds was not mentioned once.

During the discussions it became clear that for many participants the prevention from killing day-old chicks is not enough and they would only buy products from dual-purpose chickens if the husbandry conditions would be improved as well.

For more information, please look here:


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Federal Ministry of Food und Agriculture (BMEL)
    (national, öffentlich)


5.2015 - 12.2020

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 2817202813
Funding program: Innovationsförderung
Project status: ongoing


hits: 19

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    pdf document (limited accessibility) 3373 kb
  4. Wildraut C, Rovers AK, Sonntag WI, Christoph-Schulz IB, Meyer-Höfer M von, Luy J, Wolfram J, Spiller A, Mergenthaler M (2018) SocialLab - Nutztierhaltung im Spiegel der Gesellschaft : Annäherungen in der Bewertung der landwirtschaftlichen Nutztierhaltung - Ergebnisse aus gemeinsamen Diskussionsrunden mit Tierhaltern und Verbrauchern. J Consumer Protect Food Safety 13(2):171-176, DOI:10.1007/s00003-017-1144-7
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    pdf document (limited accessibility) 650 kb
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    pdf document (limited accessibility) 1349 kb
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