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Marketplace Politics

December 12, 2022 | Letters

Author: Nicole Olynk Widmar, Associate Head and Professor, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics, and Candace Croney, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging & Director of the Center for Animal Welfare Science, Purdue University

You may have seen that Consumer Corner partnered with the Center for Animal Welfare Science’s director, Dr. Candace Croney, to attempt to look at livestock and animal welfare through the lens of consumer-driven changes in a marketplace. Why? Because we see the pathways to these changes in agricultural market channels that we’ve worked on for years now ‘repeating themselves’. Essentially what we’ve seen develop in the marketplace is that individuals who may not be terribly satisfied with the communication about or investments in animal welfare move to use the channels they have available to them to essentially ‘regulate’ change, but not through traditional regulatory channels – instead, they use the marketplace.

In short, animal welfare is a highly contentious and socially charged issue that has changed the landscape of animal agriculture (changed being past tense), and it continues to shape (present tense) how animal agriculture and all of the related industries (i.e., meat, milk, fiber) do business. There are now a plethora of labels that convey to consumers a variety of things, from how animals were housed to how they were fed.

Changing regulatory requirements through government action is slow and cumbersome. However, politics via the market are fast and powerful. And you can move market forces to achieve what is essentially a political end.

The bottom line – you do not necessarily need to pass a law to cause change; you only need to convince a few people with a lot of market power to change what they’re buying.