Contributed to The Globe and Mail Published Last updated
Humane beef has been in the news recently – but what has not been the prime focus is the economics of that product. Meat sold as certified by a particular system (Certified Humane, Canada Organic, SPCA Certified) is not necessarily produced from animals treated more humanely than those whose meat comes without a certification. What it does mean is that the producer is audited and certified by a “third party” to be producing to particular guidelines that are publicly accessible. For producers, this means more record keeping, adherence to a set of rules and participation in an audit on some regular time line.
These things clearly add cost for producers and possibly for their buyers. So consumers will undoubtedly pay more.
Sobey’s Inc. has been using Certified Humane meats since late 2013. This has generated interest in this particular certification program from processors and producers, increasing the supply of Certified Humane products in Canada. This interest comes because of multiple economic factors: the ability of the producer to have long-term, assured contracts that provide stability, and a price that covers the costs of the certification processes. From the buyer’s end, they are removing uncertainty in the eyes of their consumers about standards associated with animal welfare. The consumer knows someone is checking and verifying certain animal-welfare standards even if they are not completely clear about what exactly those standards are.
For this certainty, they are willing to pay some amount and perhaps avoid the vague guilt they otherwise feel whenever they hear about an incident of terrible animal treatment.