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Backing biodiversity? German consumers’ views on a multi-level biodiversity-labeling scheme for beef from grazing-based production systems



Biodiversity loss driven by intensive livestock farming constitutes a major threat to the resilience of food systems. Grazing-based beef production, by contrast, supports ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation. Communicating these benefits to consumers is vital to stimulate demand for pasture-raised beef, with labels being a key means of conveying such credence attributes. Despite extensive research on eco-labels and sustainability certification, however, we know little about consumer perceptions of labels designed to certify and highlight the biodiversity benefits of cattle products. To address this gap, we conducted six audio-only online focus group discussions with forty buyers of beef in Germany to explore consumer perceptions of a multi-level labeling system of labeling designed to differentiate between the conservation measures applied in pasture-raised beef production. Our findings indicate significant challenges for the implementation of such labeling, including low levels of understanding of biodiversity among consumers. Most participants struggled to discriminate between different levels of biodiversity conservation measures and placed little value on the biodiversity benefits of different products. Gaining trust in certification and control procedures is problematic due to the profusion of labeling schemes on the market, especially given consumers' time pressures. However, our findings also highlight consumers' appreciation for biodiversity conservation at local level and higher levels of trust in short supply chains, suggesting opportunities for selling pasture-raised beef at local level. The differences we identify in consumers’ use of labeling can inform further segmentation research and targeted communications to market beef from grazing-based production systems.
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
Available online 9 August 2022
0959-6526/© 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Backing biodiversity? German consumers views on a multi-level
biodiversity-labeling scheme for beef from grazing-based
production systems
Ekaterina Stampa
, Katrin Zander
University of Kassel, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural and Food Marketing, Steinstraße 19, 37213, Witzenhausen, Germany
Handling Editor: Shen Qu
Animal welfare
Biodiversity conservation
Consumer perception
Multi-level labeling
Online focus groups
Pasture-raised beef
Biodiversity loss driven by intensive livestock farming constitutes a major threat to the resilience of food systems.
Grazing-based beef production, by contrast, supports ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation.
Communicating these benets to consumers is vital to stimulate demand for pasture-raised beef, with labels
being a key means of conveying such credence attributes. Despite extensive research on eco-labels and sus-
tainability certication, however, we know little about consumer perceptions of labels designed to certify and
highlight the biodiversity benets of cattle products. To address this gap, we conducted six audio-only online
focus group discussions with forty buyers of beef in Germany to explore consumer perceptions of a multi-level
labeling system of labeling designed to differentiate between the conservation measures applied in pasture-
raised beef production. Our ndings indicate signicant challenges for the implementation of such labeling,
including low levels of understanding of biodiversity among consumers. Most participants struggled to
discriminate between different levels of biodiversity conservation measures and placed little value on the
biodiversity benets of different products. Gaining trust in certication and control procedures is problematic
due to the profusion of labeling schemes on the market, especially given consumerstime pressures. However,
our ndings also highlight consumersappreciation for biodiversity conservation at local level and higher levels
of trust in short supply chains, suggesting opportunities for selling pasture-raised beef at local level. The dif-
ferences we identify in consumers use of labeling can inform further segmentation research and targeted
communications to market beef from grazing-based production systems.
1. Introduction
Our survival depends on our ability and determination to build
resilient food systems. However, we cannot develop sustainable food
supply chains without tackling biodiversity loss (Quarshie et al., 2019;
om et al., 2020; van Amstel et al., 2008). Today, unsustainable
agricultural practices are driving biodiversity loss on a catastrophic
scale, meaning wide-ranging changes are urgently needed to transition
to sustainable food systems. In addition to actions by governments and
private companies, major shifts in consumer behaviour are needed to
achieve these changes, which entails effective communication to raise
public awareness of the importance of preserving biodiversity (Bickford
et al., 2012; Chaudhary et al., 2018; Quarshie et al., 2019; van Amstel
et al., 2008).
Research on the environmental impacts of different livestock
production systems shows that pasture grazing is a sustainable form of
cattle husbandry that contributes both to improved animal welfare and
the conservation of biodiversity (Angerer et al., 2021; Bragaglio et al.,
2020; Dawson et al., 2011; Gjerris et al., 2016; Kok et al., 2020).
Research in Central and Northern Europe in particular, as well as in
Alpine regions, has documented the overall biodiversity benets of
well-managed cattle grazing in terms of the abundance and richness of
plants and such insects as butteries and ground beetles (Angerer et al.,
2021; T¨
alle et al., 2016). However, the high costs associated with
pasture grazing constitute an obstacle to its adoption by farmers (Becker
et al., 2018). These costs can be overcome through government subsidies
and/or a signicant increase in consumer demand and willingness to
pay (WTP) for sustainable livestock products.
Numerous policies have been developed to promote sustainable food
choices and raise consumer awareness of the importance of preserving
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (E. Stampa).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Cleaner Production
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Received 8 February 2022; Received in revised form 7 June 2022; Accepted 4 August 2022
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
biodiversity. These efforts may be reected in part by the nding of
European Commission (2019) report of a signicant increase from 2015
to 19 in the proportion of European citizens who recognize the need for
urgent actions to stop biodiversity loss. The number of consumers
seeking information about the impact of food systems on biodiversity is
also growing (Tulloch et al., 2021; Zaharia et al., 2021). Notwith-
standing these positive policy efforts and the evidence of increased
public consciousness of biodiversity loss, however, science has long
established a citizen-consumer-attitude-behaviour gap between the
declared attitudes of consumers and their actual purchase behaviour
(Gjerris et al., 2016; Vigors, 2018). While recent scientic evidence
shows substantial interest in pasture-raised products among consumers
and a WTP for these products (Schulze et al., 2021; Stampa et al. 2020a),
the question remains whether the link between valuing biodiversity and
purchasing biodiversity-friendly meat is sufciently strong to suggest
that raising consumer awareness could be an effective way to drive
farmers to implement conservation practices.
Effectively communicating the biodiversity benets of grazing-based
food production to increase consumer demand has been found to involve
signicant challenges (Markova-Nenova and W¨
atzold, 2018; R¨
os et al.,
2014; Spendrup et al., 2017). One key challenge is that these benets are
credence attributes which cannot be directly experienced by consumers
before, during or after consumption (Caswell, 1998; Torma and
Thøgersen, 2021). Stimulating demand for products whose specic
value is based on credence attributes related to process qualities requires
transparency and effective information transfer throughout the supply
chain. Credence attributes are typically communicated through labeling
based on certication schemes such as eco-labeling schemes that eval-
uate a products ecological and social characteristics and provide this
information to consumers (Nunes and Riyanto, 2005). Encouragingly, a
recent nationwide report found that consumers in Germany are paying
growing attention to labels and certication schemes (BMEL, 2021).
This suggests that trusted sustainability labels can aid consumer
decision-making and motivate consumers to make environmentally
friendly choices (Edenbrandt and Lagerkvist, 2021; Risius and Hamm,
2018; Torma and Thøgersen, 2021; van Amstel et al., 2008; Zaharia
et al., 2021).
Consumer perceptions of eco-labeling are inuenced by multiple
factors. In addition to levels of consumer trust, knowledge, awareness,
motivation and involvement, these factors include the perceived per-
sonal benets, relevance and use value of eco-labels, which are inu-
enced by the design and comprehensibility of the labels and the
information they convey (Grunert et al., 2014; Tauque et al., 2019).
Initial trust in the source of label information is also essential for con-
sumers to engage with and use a label for purchase decisions (Verbeke,
2008). These factors are closely intertwined and mutually inuential,
moreover, making consumer perceptions of labeling constitute a com-
plex construct (Tauque et al., 2019). Despite this complexity, there is
evidence that increasing consumersawareness and knowledge about an
issue, can increase label use and thereby promote purchase decisions
(Peschel et al., 2016). In addition to the perceived importance or per-
sonal relevance of the attributes communicated by the labeling, con-
sumersdecision-making about sustainable products also depends on the
context of the purchase (Bangsa and Schlegelmilch, 2019; Torma and
Thøgersen, 2021). For example, contextual factors such as time pressure
and product price may pose barriers to label use (Horne, 2009; Torma
and Thøgersen, 2021). The successful implementation of a new biodi-
versity label would thus need to address all these challenges.
In Germany there are various private labeling schemes for food that
include biodiversity conservation in their criteria, e.g., the Pro Weide-
land label for pasture-raised dairy and beef products. At European level,
besides regulations on organic production, there are relevant regulations
dening hay milkand mountain products,
e.g. for beef from cattle
grazing on mountain pastures. Although these regulations make pro-
visions for labeling schemes relevant for pasture-raised products, they
do not specically address biodiversity conservation (Oliveira et al.,
2021). Specic biodiversity labeling for pasture-raised products is
presently unavailable on the German market. Most existing initiatives
make use of binary labeling, granting labels only to fully certied
products without differentiating between degrees of compliance. There
are also various multi-level labeling systems that indicate the different
extent to which a product meets certain criteria. In the EU egg market,
for example, such a system is used to communicate different levels of
animal welfare applied in laying hen husbandry (Janssen et al., 2016).
Given their capacity to convey a wider range of attributes and
communicate more information than binary systems, multi-level label-
ing schemes might be more appropriate for marking attributes such as
the biodiversity benets of a product according to different levels of
conservation measures applied by farmers (Meyerding et al., 2019;
Tonsor and Wolf, 2011; Torma and Thøgersen, 2021; Weinrich and
Spiller, 2016a; Weinrich et al., 2016). A multi-level approach to labeling
sustainably produced beef would enable consumers to make more
informed judgements about the benets of pasture-raised products,
further serving to differentiate pasture-raised products and to justify
premium prices (Spendrup et al., 2017; Torma and Thøgersen, 2021). By
targeting consumers with different levels of WTP for biodiversity con-
servation, multi-level labeling could help farmers recoup the additional
costs of their conservation measures.
Extensive research has been conducted into the labeling of credence
attributes including organic production, local origin, animal welfare,
and carbon footprint. Some of this research has touched on issues related
to the communication of biodiversity benets, including consumers
WTP for products with labels highlighting the valuable ecosystem ser-
vices supported through the conservation of biodiversity (e.g., Jaung
et al., 2019; Li et al., 2018). Biodiversity conservation was identied as a
promising characteristic for labels in a study on consumer choice pref-
erences regarding milk with ethical attributes, including support of
biodiversity, animal welfare and nancial support for small farms
(Markova-Nenova and W¨
atzold, 2018). Little research has focused on
biodiversity labeling, however, especially in relation to communicating
the biodiversity benets of pasture-grazing.
Addressing this gap in the literature, we aimed to investigate the
potential advantages of including biodiversity conservation on labels as
a positive attribute of grazing-based cattle husbandry. We explored
consumer perceptions of a multi-level labeling system for beef from
biodiversity-friendly grazing systems to answer the following three
research questions: (i) How do consumers understand grazing, pasture-
raised products, and biodiversity?; (ii) How do consumers perceive a
multi-level biodiversity labeling system?; and (iii) What recommen-
dations can be given regarding biodiversity labeling?.
The following section presents the theoretical background of our
study, focusing on multi-level labeling and factors affecting consumer
perception of labels. We then present our methodical approach and the
empirical results of our explorative study, discussing each nding before
spelling out their implications in our conclusion section. We nish by
outlining the studys limitations and possible directions for future
2. Theoretical background
In conveying the environmental benets of sustainably produced
products, a core aim of eco-labeling schemes is to reduce information
Commission Delegated Regulation (eu) No 665/2014 (http://data.europa.
eu/eli/reg_del/2014/665/oj) and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU)
2016/304 (
E. Stampa and K. Zander
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
asymmetry between consumers and producers (van Amstel et al., 2008).
Biodiversity is an important element in the criteria of these schemes for
assessing the sustainability of food systems (Chaudhary et al., 2018; van
Amstel et al., 2008). Although sustainability is a complex and multi-
faceted concept, consumers often equate this term with general notions
of environmental protection (Grunert et al., 2014). The lack of speci-
city in current environmental discourse has opened the way for large
companies to create their own sustainability labels as a means of
differentiating themselves from competitors and appealing to con-
sumers different environmental concerns (Tauque et al., 2019; van
Amstel et al., 2007), including concerns about biodiversity loss (Skogen
et al., 2018). Numerous multi-level labeling schemes have thus been
introduced as a way of communicating differences between particular
sustainability attributes valued by consumers, albeit mostly in non-food
sectors to date (van Amstel et al., 2008; Weinrich et al., 2016).
Our study proceeds from the premise that adopting such multi-level
labeling schemes to highlight the biodiversity benets of purchasing
pasture-raised beef could have a number of important advantages. By
avoiding the use of overly general terms, for example, such a scheme
could increase the perceived credibility of the label and gain consumers
trust (Torma and Thøgersen, 2021). Multi-level labeling could also
support a wider range of sustainably produced meat to address the de-
mands of consumers with different environmental priorities and WTP
(Janssen et al., 2016; Zander et al., 2018).
From the existing literature on multi-level labeling, the study closest
to our present research aims is an evaluation by Spendrup et al. (2017)
of consumer understanding of a Swedish meat guide that used a
three-level approach to communicate the biodiversity benets of meat
products alongside three other attributes. Although the target group of
this study, i.e. interested consumers well aware of the environmental
footprint of food products, were found to have a good understanding of
the biodiversity impact of grazing; the meat guide was perceived as too
complex for consumers less concerned about the impacts of food pro-
duction. In addition to the comprehensibility of labels and levels of
consumer understanding of the information they contain, other factors
shown to inuence consumer perceptions and usage of a new biodi-
versity label include levels of knowledge and awareness, the perceived
personal relevance of information on labels, current levels of use and
trust in labeling, as well as the specic purchase context (Grunert et al.,
2014; Tauque et al., 2019; Verbeke, 2008).
While it goes without saying that consumers will only value biodi-
versity benets of grazing if they are aware of these benets, consumer
knowledge and awareness is also vital in relation to labeling because
consumers can only make conscious use of a biodiversity label if they
understand the labeling and the potential benets of their product
choices for biodiversity (Peschel et al., 2016). Providing detailed in-
formation to increase consumers knowledge and awareness of the
importance of biodiversity is a key potential advantage of multi-level
labeling (Bangsa and Schlegelmilch, 2019). Such differentiation can
help justify higher prices for eco-labelled products (Donato and DAn-
iello, 2021). Although additional information can improve consumers
understanding and stimulate their use of labels in purchase decisions, it
carries the risk of overloading them with information in a market
already saturated with private labels and certication programs, espe-
cially in the case of consumers with low levels of involvement with
biodiversity and/or the given product (Emberger-Klein and Menrad,
2018; Tonsor and Wolf, 2011; Verbeke, 2008; Weinrich and Spiller,
2016b). Here, involvementrefers to the perceived personal relevance
of environmental issues and sustainability labeling to individual con-
sumers, which in turn is reected in different levels of interest in and
demand for information about products (Cho, 2015; Verbeke, 2008).
Higher levels of consumer involvement are connected with greater label
use (Grunert et al., 2014), as measured by the amount of attention
consumers pay to label information when making purchase decisions
(Steiner et al., 2017). Importantly, eco-labels are perceived as highly
relevant by a signicant minority of German consumers (Janβen and
Langen, 2017).
Research has conrmed that easily comprehensible labels increase
levels of consumer satisfaction, trust, and liking for products (Samant
and Seo, 2016; Weinrich and Spiller, 2016b). A clearly understandable
differentiation between levels in multi-level labeling systems can have a
positive effect on consumers WTP for products associated with
ecosystem services and high animal welfare standards; this effect can be
even stronger if brief additional information is provided on labeling (Li
et al., 2018; Weinrich et al., 2016). Studies have further conrmed the
importance of label information being perceived as accurate in order to
gain consumer trust in the labelled product (Tonsor and Wolf, 2011).
The extent of consumers involvement and label use is often be
constrained by internal and external factors affecting their attention
priorities. Time pressure during shopping signicantly complicate
decision-making, leading otherwise environmentally conscious con-
sumers to resort to heuristics that compromise their own values (Gjerris
et al., 2016; Grunert et al., 2014; Verbeke, 2008). Considering such
factors is all the more important in a context of numerous competing
sustainability and eco-labels (Asioli et al., 2020; Janβen and Langen,
2017). A large and growing number of sustainability labels on the
market can itself have negative effects, including greater consumer
skepticism and lower levels of trust due to unfamiliarity with labeling
schemes, unspecic claims, unfavourable combinations of different la-
bels on products, or negative associations of a label with a disliked
and/or distrusted brand (Sirieix et al., 2013).
While textual information can help consumers comprehend the
rationale behind a multi-level label, it is the visual saliency of a label
that attracts consumersattention in the rst place and can positively
affect their evaluation of the product (Peschel et al., 2019). As
eye-tracking studies have conrmed, logos are more prominent to cus-
tomers than text on packaging, capturing their visual attention more
quickly and holding it for longer, thereby helping to stimulate purchases
(Katz et al., 2019; Rihn et al., 2019). An easily recognizable label design
may be especially important to ensure less environmentally oriented
consumers can understand the label (Tauque et al., 2019). In an
explorative study of consumers responses to label images for
pasture-raised dairy, for example, Getter et al. (2015) found that a
picture of a cow grazing on pasture was preferred by the participants.
These ndings formed the basis for our development and design of the
multi-level labeling concept explored in this study.
3. Material and methods
3.1. Study approach
As a common instrument for eliciting a variety of views on a specic
issue and exploring consumers perceptions and attitudes (Bryman,
2016; Nyumba et al., 2018), focus groups have been used in previous
research on sustainable food labels (Sirieix et al., 2013), including for
sustainable aquaculture products (Zander et al., 2018). The major
advantage of focus groups over individual in-depth interviews is the
opportunity they afford for interactions between participants and for
observing such interactions (Halkier, 2010; Zander et al., 2018).
Listening to the answers of others allows the participants to deeper
reect on their own views and to question the reasons of other partici-
pants for a particular opinion (Bryman, 2016).
Although in-person focus groups are more common, online-based
methods of data collection have the advantage of involving partici-
pants otherwise reluctant to attend face-to-face meetings (Guerrero and
Xicola, 2018), especially at a time of social distancing due to the coro-
navirus pandemic (Lobe et al., 2020). Online methods also enable the
simultaneous participation of people from different regions without
incurring travel costs. In synchronous online focus groups, the re-
searchers and all the participants join the discussion at the same time,
enabling spontaneous interactions and reducing the risks of participants
researching the subject on the Internet during the discussion, thereby
E. Stampa and K. Zander
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
improving the reliability of the results as compared to asynchronous
approaches (Guerrero and Xicola, 2018).
Synchronous online focus groups can be conducted in the form of
chats, video conferences, or audio-only discussions. The benets of an
audio-only approach not only include less need for equipment, Internet
bandwidth, and typing skills (unlike texting chats), but also greater
anonymity which can have a positive effect on the openness of partici-
pants in voicing their opinions (Cheng et al., 2009; Lobe, 2017; Stewart
and Shamdasani, 2014; Woodyatt et al., 2016). On the other hand,
audio-only focus groups have the disadvantage of reducing interactions
among participants due to the lack of non-verbal signals and facial ex-
pressions, which also complicates moderation (Stewart and Shamdasani,
2017). Overall, audio-only online focus groups have been found a solid
alternative to face-to-face focus groups (Cheng et al., 2009). Having
weighed these merits and demerits, we adjudged this method most
suitable for the purposes of this study.
The focus group discussions followed semi-structured guidelines
designed and pre-tested to answer our research questions. The discus-
sions began by investigating the study participants general under-
standing and knowledge of pasture grazing, pasture-raised products, and
biodiversity, as well as their levels of trust in and use of labels. We then
elicited their evaluations of the relevance and comprehensibility of the
three-level biodiversity labeling scheme we developed to reect
different agri-environmental measures applied in pasture management
to preserve biodiversity (Fig. 1). The logos of the three different levels of
the label were rst presented to the participants alongside brief
explanatory information prior to being displayed without text. In this
way we were able to explore perceptions regarding the relative
comprehensibility of different labeling levels. Our ndings subsequently
informed the recommendations we propose in this paper for biodiversity
Six online focus groups were conducted in OctoberNovember 2020,
with participants recruited through an online questionnaire by a market
research agency contracted to screen participants according to four pre-
dened eligibility criteria: (i) that they had full or partial responsibility
for household food purchases; (ii) that they made regular purchases of
beef; (iii) that they were aged between 18 and 80 years old; and (iv) that
they had no afliation with agriculture, the food industry, or market
research. A quota was set of at least one person from the North, East,
South and West regions of Germany in each group. Potential participants
were informed of the condentiality of the study, their right to withdraw
from the study at any time without consequence, and the monetary
compensation they would receive for their time and effort. An equal
number of females and males participated in the discussion (see
Table 1). Despite efforts to organize the groups with a similar balance of
ages, only 40% of the participants were aged 50 and over.
Cisco Webex web conference software was used to conduct and
audio-record the discussions. The recordings lasted 7585 min and
commenced once the participants had been greeted and informed about
data protection. The recordings were anonymized and transcribed
verbatim by a trained assistant.
3.2. Data analysis and interpretation
To extract meaning from the transcripts, we applied thematic qual-
itative text analysis (Kuckartz, 2014), creating a coding frame of
concept- and data-driven codes and categories using MAXQDA 2020
software to classify the retrieved information (see Table 2). The
concept-driven categories emerged from the discussion guidelines and
the rst author added data-driven categories to the coding frame during
the preliminary reading and editing of the transcribed interviews. The
smallest coded segment was dened as a complete thought expressed in
at least a single sentence. Certain segments were coded with multiple
categories. The rst author and a trained assistant coded two transcripts
to check the intercoder reliability and subsequently discussed any
questionable codes and improved the coding frame. In line with the
method recommended by Stewart and Shamdasani (2014), any topics
that spontaneously emerged among the rst topics discussed and which
repeatedly recurred were considered particularly important during the
data interpretation.
4. Consumer perspectives on grazing, pasture-raised beef, and
multi-level biodiversity labeling
4.1. Knowledge and associations regarding grazing, pasture-raised beef,
and biodiversity
The focus group participants associated pasture grazing with high-
quality products, higher standards of animal welfare, and preferable
environments in terms of both landscape and biodiversity. Grazing was
perceived as being more naturalfor cows, e.g., denitely more natural
than standing in a stall all day (P5.6:41).
Although some participants
associated grazing with healthier animals, others expressed doubts
about this outcome: even when its standing in a meadow, it can still be
pumped up with chemicals (P3.2:111). Importantly, four participants
voiced concerns about the lack of regulations for labeling pasture-raised
beef products in Germany:
There are so many labels and anyone can make their label or anything
else. There are no legal regulations. This means you dont know exactly
what is behind this pasture grazing. (P7.3:66)
In the majority of discussion groups, the participants agreed that
taste was the most important factor in their decisions about purchasing
meat, though some also reported experiencing pangs of conscience
about the suffering of animals. In one discussion group the participants
agreed that the value of pasture-based production lay not in its taste but
in its benets for animal welfare:
Well, I assume that pasture grazing is something for animal welfare that
I am doing something good for the cow if it can stand around outdoors.
But that it necessarily tastes better? No, I dont think that at all. Im rather
ready to pay a little more for that, because I really think that it [grazing] is
not quite so brutal towards the animals. (P2.6:48)
Most participants had heard of the term biodiversity and understood
it as denoting an abundance of plant, insect and animal species, though
two participants conated the concept of biodiversity with the diversity
of animal breeds. Even participants who reportedly consumed pasture-
raised beef were unaware of the specic benecial effects of pasture
grazing for biodiversity: Biodiversity, it was well, although I always buy
pasture-raised meat it was never clear to me that theres also this aspect
(P8.3:89). In evaluating these benets, the responses of some 25% of the
participants highlighted the importance of personal relevance and
accordingly valued biodiversity more in connection with short supply
chains, local production, and conservation measures at local level rather
than as a stand-alone feature of grazing:
The cow comes maybe from Bavaria and I live in Berlin. The meat is
moved six hundred kilometres around the place, absolutely pointless. And
then I have this thought about the environment at the back of my mind
[], we do something for biodiversity this must be local, right? The
distances must be short, and I must do something too. I dont want to hear
that the cow comes from Italy. I make sure that pastures in Italy are doing
well and the biodiversity is preserved, but I want this to happen in my
region. (P2.2:139)
Our ndings regarding consumersassociations with pasture grazing
are in line with earlier research (Henchion et al., 2017; Stampa et al.,
Here and in the following, the citations from the transcripts translated into
English are given in italics with the source coded in the form ‘Px.y:z, where Px
is the number of the participant, y is the number of the online focus group, and
z is the number of the paragraph in the transcript.
E. Stampa and K. Zander
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
2020b). In ethical meat purchases, biodiversity was reportedly less
important to the participants than either animal welfare or local pro-
duction, which also conrms previous ndings on consumer priorities
(Bangsa and Schlegelmilch, 2019; Markova-Nenova and W¨
atzold, 2018;
Zander and Hamm, 2010). While this prioritization may be attributed
partly to the prominence of animal welfare issues in public discourse,
the participantslack of knowledge about the benets of cattle grazing
for biodiversity was also a key factor, further highlighting the need to
convey this information to consumers more effectively (R¨
os et al.,
2014; Markova-Nenova and W¨
atzold, 2018; Schulze et al., 2021).
Although most participants took it for granted that biodiversity is an
intrinsic aspect of pasture grazing, they were either unaware of or
assigned little value to the specic biodiversity benets of pasturing,
including the benets of grazing on conservation areas, which again
conrms ndings from prior research (Sanchez-Sabate and Sabat´
2019; Schulze et al., 2021). The doubts expressed by some participants
as to whether pasture grazing necessarily ensures freedom from hor-
mones and antibiotics further differences between consumers individ-
ual priorities regarding aspects of beef production (Spendrup et al.,
2017). Importantly, these doubts indicate that some consumer groups
are unlikely to view pasture grazing as interchangeable with organic
production even if they associate such grazing with greater natural-
nessand higher animal welfare standards (Pirsich and Weinrich, 2018).
In sum, our ndings conrm the importance to consumers of environ-
mental benets perceived as personally relevant to them, as in the case
of the high value consumers place on local nature protection measures,
which is a factor often mentioned in connection with greater readiness
to buy products (Cho, 2015; Gjerris et al., 2016; Tauque et al., 2019).
4.2. General label use among the participants and the relevance of a
biodiversity label
The participants differed in their levels of general label use and
involvement with labels and biodiversity. In four of the focus groups, the
participants spontaneously named familiar labels referring to organic
products and organic certication (EU organic and German BioSiegel),
organic associations (Demeter and Naturland) and the private label of a
large discounter chain. A quarter of all participants reported paying
attention to labels when making purchase decisions as well as using
other available means to obtain more detailed information than that
given on packaging. These consumers declared that searching for
additional information and gaining knowledge about the background of
labels helped them build trust in certain labels. These participants were
supportive of the proposal for a new biodiversity labeling scheme, e.g.,
Actually, I pay attention to such things, and this kind of labeling would be
really helpful for me (P3.6:126). While nearly half the participants
Fig. 1. Labeling concept and brief explana-
tory information of the labels levels for the
study participants
Fig. 1 description: The label prototype was
designed in the form of two non-concentric
circles, one placed within another. The
inner circle contains a symbolic depiction of
a black-and-white cow. In the white space
between this depiction and the outer circle,
we inserted the word ‘Weidehaltung,
meaning ‘pasture grazing, in green font. The
second level is designed in the same way but
also contains the word ‘Artenvielfalt
(biodiversity) in red font, with two plus (+)
signs: one in red and the other empty. The
third level contains a second red plus sign
and a symbolic depiction of a red bird.
Table 1
Demographic composition of the online focus groups.
Female Male Total number of
1849 5080 1849 5080
1 2 1 2 2 7
2 1 1 1 2 5
3 2 2 4 0 8
4 3 2 1 1 7
5 2 1 2 2 7
6 2 1 2 1 6
Total 12 8 12 8 40
Table 2
Categories and codes based on the issues discussed in the focus groups.
Categories Codes Number of
coded segments
Pasture grazing Denition, occurrence, time spent indoors,
fresh air, happy cows, naturalness, healthier
animals, staying inside in winter, fodder,
lack of pasture areas, carbon footprint
Taste, quality, origin, availability,
Biodiversity Conservation measures, effect of grazing,
(mis)understanding of the term, willingness
to pay for biodiversity conservation
Animal welfare Animal-friendly, freedom of movement,
stress, indoor cattle housing, intensive cattle
farming, slaughter, transport
Need or lack of need for more information,
importance of education, information search
General label
Attention to labels, information on the
packaging, point-of-sale information, QR
codes, social media, customer magazines,
TV, workshops
Multiple levels, comprehensibility, trust,
transparency, familiarity, number of labels
on the market, institution issuing the label,
control body, certication body, label design
Store format, time pressure, local, meat
consumption frequency, conscious
consumption, good conscience, local, vegan
and vegetarian, appreciation, meat prices,
affordability, pasture price premium
Other Organic, greenwashing, urban vs. rural,
reduced packaging, other animal species
E. Stampa and K. Zander
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
acknowledged the importance of labeling for information provision, e.
g., When it really is a controlled label, where you can be sure that it is as it is,
I would nd it good. I think it is good to stimulate people to reconsider what
they consume(P6.4:109), these same consumers also admitted that la-
bels had little relevance for their usual purchase decisions and that they
were thus less likely to make use of a new biodiversity label. The
remaining participants raised objections to labeling in general, with
many criticizing the large number of labels already in the market. These
consumers also specically opposed the introduction of a new biodi-
versity label for various reasons, including lack of comprehension or
interest in information about biodiversity and lack of time to read such
I hardly know any label and nor do I look into them. It is only by coin-
cidence that I read something like that on a yoghurt or a juice carton
during breakfast. And thats why, even more labels? I dont even look at
them when shopping. (P3.4:115)
Among those participants who rejected labeling, some reported only
using the most prominent and salient information on packaging to
inform their purchase decision, including bold claims on packaging such
as pasture-raisedor organic, and designations of origin. These par-
ticipants tended to place their trust instead in local butchers, relying on
these familiar shops to meet their requirements for quality, ethical
production, and price.
When asked to name which sources of information they considered
most useful when buying meat, the participants mentioned packaging,
the Internet, yers, brochures and posters at the point of sale, personal
communications with the stores staff, television documentaries, news
and advertisements, videos and social media. The participants said they
generally appreciated the provision of such information and considered
it important to connect consumers with agriculture and biodiversity.
Although nearly a quarter of the participants were interested in
accessing additional information about products, including by scanning
QR codes, others insisted that labeling must speak for itself. When
asked to offer examples of how concise message about the environ-
mental and ethical value of a meat product could be conveyed effec-
tively, some participants proposed the placement of such products
among other ethical products on a designated supermarket shelf. Many
participants said they considered the mere fact of pasture grazing as
sufcient in itself as essential information on the packaging of pasture-
raised products. However, some participants insisted that labels must
also indicate the geographical origin of the product and include the
name of a trusted institution or certication body issuing the label to
help inform their purchase decisions.
The fact that the participants who denied making use of labeling also
reported buying organic products may indicate that label use is not al-
ways conscious. This accords with the fact that while the majority of
these participants claimed not to differentiate between labels, they
nevertheless appreciated the presence of a label (Janβen and Langen,
2017). Another possible explanation as to why some of these consumers
reported not using labels and not feeling a strong responsibility
regarding biodiversity conservation is that they may feel that buying
local or organic products itself constitutes a sufcient contribution to the
environment (Jansson et al., 2010).
As previous studies have shown, acknowledging and factoring in the
heterogeneity of consumersperceptions and use of labels is crucial for
the development of customized and targeted approaches to information
provision to support labeling (Grebitus et al., 2015; Janβen and Langen,
2017; Pirsich and Weinrich, 2018). Information provision may be
necessary, for instance, to explain specic conservation measures and to
communicate the unique selling point of a new biodiversity label, since
these aspects may well not be self-explanatory or effectively conveyed
solely by adding the term ‘biodiversityto packaging (Flinzberger et al.,
2020). While some consumers will nd such additional information
necessary, others will overlook these details and pay much more
attention to external attributes and heuristics such as the use of logos on
packaging or the placement of such products on a particular shelf, since
processing information requires a cognitive effort (Horne, 2009).
Given these ndings, and bearing in mind that only information
which is read and correctly understood by consumers can instigate a
desired pro-environmental behaviour, it is clear that any information
provided must not only be brief and factual and conveyed in a manner
accessible to consumers lacking specic knowledge, but also sufciently
detailed to engage more environmentally conscious consumers (Donato
and DAniello, 2021; Golan et al., 2001; Herbes et al., 2020). Even if
such an approach is adapted, however, comprehensibility challenges
and the unwillingness of consumers to engage with complex topics in
stores or at home can compromise the effectiveness of such communi-
cation, leading consumers to resort to habitual purchasing (Verbeke,
4.3. The comprehensibility of multi-level biodiversity labeling
Regarding the comprehensibility of multi-level labeling for biodi-
versity, two key aspects emerged from the online focus group discussion:
(i) the need to indicate different levels of biodiversity conservation
measures, and (ii) the importance of label design. The participants
agreed that a multi-level labeling system could be comprehensible for a
layperson if sufcient explanatory information was made available
about the different measures indicated by the different label levels.
However, dening precisely what would constitute a necessary amount
of information proved difcult. Nearly a quarter of participants objected
to the proposed multi-level labeling system as being superuous and
difcult to understand and memorize, especially those unwilling to seek
out background information or interact with the information provided,
e.g. Well, biodiversity, that would be too complicated for me to deeply look
into it(P6.3:104). This objection was associated with unwillingness to
pay more for higher levels of biodiversity conservation: I dont think
that consumers are ready to pay even more, whether theres one, two or three
plus-signs on the logo(P4.2:97).
In response to the question What could make this labeling more
comprehensible?, some participants suggested reducing the number of
levels, while participants in four of the six groups suggested a trafc-
light system would be simply clear to everyone (P7.1:294). From a
different perspective, some participants regarded the explicit mention of
biodiversity as redundant since they already perceived pasture grazing
as an indicator of sustainable production and understood this to imply
benets for biodiversity, meaning for them it was sufcient to know a
product came from pasture-grazing in order to make a purchase
I generally expect from pasture grazing that simply everything is included,
so to speak. All that comes with these levels I get all this when I buy
[products from] pasture grazing. (P6.1:217)
Our ndings suggest that when consumers are uncertain about a
product or a label, they will typically opt for a label they understand and
reject products with less obvious ethical and/or environmental features
(Verbeke, 2008). Although the participants intuitively grasped the logic
of a multi-level labeling system, they struggled to differentiate between
the levels and required additional explanatory information, which ac-
cords with ndings from earlier studies (Herbes et al., 2020; Janβen and
Langen, 2017; Weinrich et al., 2016). The participants proposal of a
trafc-light system of labeling for biodiversity as a generally under-
standable code for conveying information about biodiversity benets
likewise reects similar suggestions made in studies on carbon footprint
and other sustainability indicators (Emberger-Klein and Menrad, 2018;
Feucht and Zander, 2018; Meyerding et al., 2019; Spendrup et al.,
2017). The application of trafc-light coding to biodiversity would
require further research to dene a comprehensible and valid reference
point for biodiversity impact of grazing (see also R¨
os et al., 2014).
While this question is beyond the scope of the present study, it may be
relevant for comprehensive sustainability labels emerging on the
E. Stampa and K. Zander
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
European market that seek to account for biodiversity, including the
new Planet-Score label (Southey, 2021).
4.4. General trust in labeling and trust in a new biodiversity label
When discussing trust in labeling and the factors that inuence their
levels of trust, the participants emphasized the importance of the cer-
tication and control bodies behind the introduction of new labels:
I believe it is one of the prerequisites for positively assessing a label that
you can trust the institution issuing the label. A label alone says nothing at
all. But the institution which issues the label must be independent from the
producers. It must be rather from the side of consumer protection.
The credibility of certication and control bodies was among the rst
topics raised by the participants and one that recurred throughout the
discussions. The participants emphasized the need for independent and
impartial third-party control organizations, preferably in the form of
long-established bodies acting at community level. The actors or bodies
they considered most trustworthy to control the implementation of a
new label were farmersassociations, the German Federal Ministry of
Agriculture, NGOs, and veterinarians. However, several participants
considered small butchers shops to be more trustworthy than any cer-
tication bodies, basing this preference on their personal acquaintance
with the seller, the butchers long history of consistent performance, and
the fact that the butchers reputation was at stake. In the case of products
purchased in supermarkets, the participants reported being usually un-
able to recognize the certifying organization by the label alone, hence
trust was mostly related to label familiarity in these contexts. Another
aspect of trust that emerged from the discussions relates to product
origin and traceability systems, with participants viewing short supply
chains as more transparent and more likely to guarantee the qualities
they desired in accordance with their ethical values.
Although familiarity was often cited as being a prerequisite for
trust in a label, not all familiar labels were equally trusted by the par-
ticipants. Indeed, certain private labels and supermarket labels were
regarded as distinctly untrustworthy, especially in the case of organic
brands sold by discount stores. In all but one of the focus groups the
participants emphasized the unmanageable number of labels as a
barrier to trust. This objection included the risk of information overload
and the cognitive efforts needed to make a choice between multiple
labels: There are so many labels, I trust none of them. How should a
consumer know the differences among all these labels?(P4.3:69).
The novelty of a particular label was not directly associated with
lower or higher levels of trust, however, since other factors appeared to
be more important, including the institution issuing the label and the
monitoring authority. The introduction of new labels was nonetheless
negatively associated with suspicions of greenwashing and the need to
invest more time in searching information. On the positive side, ve
participants noted that a trustworthy new label could become a helpful
decision-making tool and a means of informing the broader population
about biodiversity and ethical beef consumption.
In sum, these ndings conrm previous research results that the
current multiplicity of labels for ethical products reduces trust and ex-
acerbates the complexity involved in making meat-purchasing choices
(Gjerris et al., 2016; Torma and Thøgersen, 2021). Participants often
cited the abundance of labels as a cause of frustration and even un-
willingness to engage with information, with many saying they lacked
the time and other resources to prioritize ethical options consistently,
leading them to prefer labeling schemes that facilitate simple
decision-making (Verbeke, 2008). Opting for familiar labels can thus be
understood in part as a strategy to deal with information overload. From
this we can conclude, in line with the ndings of previous research
(Sirieix et al., 2013), that a new and unfamiliar biodiversity label is
likely to be met with skepticism. However, out ndings also conrm that
the indication of a known and trusted institution behind a label can
increase its perceived credibility, especially in the case of
state-controlled mandatory certication, thereby increasing consumer
trust in the label (Horne, 2009; Janβen and Langen, 2017; Janssen and
Hamm, 2014; Torma and Thøgersen, 2021).
4.5. Contextual factors relevant for multi-level biodiversity labeling
4.5.1. Time pressure
Among those participants who did not consider labels relevant in
their purchase decisions, many saw shopping for food as a functional
activity that should take no longer than necessary, even when shopping
for more expensive items such as meat. For those who made an extra
effort to visit a butchers shop or a farmers market, however, time
pressure seemed to be less relevant. Time pressure when shopping was
also linked to label comprehensibility and knowledge, since many par-
ticipants reported lacking the time to learn more about the different
levels of labeling. The number of food labels available was regarded as
time-consuming due to the need to check the background of these labels
and the traceability of the product:
I dont want to run around and check everything with my smartphone,
rst scanning and then following up on everything. That way I would
never be done with my purchases. (P1.2:73)
The participants frequent references to having insufcient time to
research the background of food products conrms earlier ndings that
time pressure affects consumerschoices in favour of familiar, trusted,
and easily available products (Horne, 2009; Verbeke, 2008). The
importance of this factor further indicates the difculty experienced by
consumers in striving to act consistently in accordance with their own
ethical values when shopping for food (Gjerris et al., 2016). The fact that
so many participants alluded to a lack of time to learn about the different
levels of a multi-level biodiversity label scheme suggests these different
levels would probably be ignored by many consumers and that any
potential positive effect of such a scheme could be attributed to the mere
presence of an eco-label regardless of its specic content (Janβen and
Langen, 2017).
4.5.2. Store format
The perceived relevance of labels to the participants further varied
according to the particular format of stores and the packaging or absence
of packaging of products. While biodiversity labeling could be helpful in
large retail settings, it may be of less relevance in local butchersshops
where higher value is placed on trustworthy personal communications
that satisfy consumersneed for information:
I think such a label only makes sense when such products are available in
large discount stores. I dont need such a label in my butchers shop
around the corner because I already assume the meat is pasture-grazed.
On the one hand, the participantspreference for personal commu-
nications with butchers as a trustworthy and sufcient source of infor-
mation suggests opportunities for direct selling. On the other hand, this
preference also renders the effective communication of biodiversity-
related attributes through labels in retail stores even more complex.
For example, our nding that many participants perceive certain private
labels of retailers and discounters as untrustworthy suggests there may
be a risk of consumer choices being negatively affected if they associate
a biodiversity label with a retailer perceived as being less caring about
the environment (Sirieix et al., 2013).
4.5.3. Price
A common opinion voiced by the study participants was that labeling
beef as pasture-raised signies better quality and thus helps them un-
derstand and accept higher prices for such products. However, the factor
cited as most important to justify higher prices for pasture-raised beef
was that of improved animal welfare:
E. Stampa and K. Zander
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
I have already said that pasture grazing denitely is an animal-friendlier
husbandry system than keeping cattle in stalls. It should be clear to us
as consumers that we have to pay an appropriate price for this
In the opinion of several participants, differentiated pricing for
livestock products according to levels of biodiversity conservation could
be appealing to consumers who are both concerned about the environ-
ment and also budget-conscious.
Our ndings thus show that high product quality and animal welfare
are widely perceived as justifying a higher price for pasture-raised beef,
since both of these attributes are associated with pasture grazing.
Biodiversity conservation, meanwhile, is perceived rather as a collateral
effect of pasture grazing that only brings low additional value to the
product (Schulze et al., 2021). Nevertheless, consumers with high levels
of both environmental and price consciousness may appreciate a
multi-level label indicating different levels of biodiversity conservation
measures since such a scheme would enable them to make ethical beef
purchases and a positive environmental contribution in different price
segments (Spendrup et al., 2017; Torma and Thøgersen, 2021).
4.5.4. Local origin
Conrming the relevance of local biodiversity to consumers, over a
quarter of the study participants emphasized the importance of local
origins in their purchase decisions, stating they would appreciate in-
formation on biodiversity conservation at local level: When I buy an
apple, locally grown but not necessarily certied organic, it has more value to
me than an organic apple from Spain (P3.2:107). Accordingly, six par-
ticipants regarded local production as the most important factor in
making purchase decisions:
Its simply too much effort for me to read all this and to nd out what it
actually means. Thats why I buy local and make sure that I feel good
about it. (P8.3:68)
The availability of meat from local origins is closely related to con-
sumersplace of residence, however, hence those participants who lived
in large cities felt disconnected from beef production and complained
about the lack of local butchers in whom they could trust.
In sum, given the value consumers place on local production (Feld-
mann and Hamm, 2015; Katz et al., 2019), together with the increased
perceived utility value of certain label combinations for consumers
(Sirieix et al., 2013; Janβen and Langen, 2017), designating the local
origins of meat on labels alongside its biodiversity benets could be an
effective way to appeal to these consumers and the appreciation they
appear to have for local conservation measures.
5. Conclusions
This paper has presented the ndings of an online focus group study
exploring consumer perceptions of a multi-level labeling system for
biodiversity-friendly pasture-raised beef. With regard to our rst
research question, we found that although consumers in Germany
associate pasture grazing with high-quality beef and with valuable an-
imal welfare and environmental attributes, there is little awareness of
the benets of pasture-grazing for biodiversity. This is one reason why
biodiversity is not currently a priority for most consumers in their beef-
purchasing decisions. Gaining consumer acceptance of a new biodiver-
sity label in Germany at present would thus be challenging, therefore,
especially given the predominance of habitual decision-making in food
purchases and low levels of consumer knowledge about or involvement
with food systems, as well as the time pressures.
Regarding our second research question about consumer perceptions
of a multi-level labeling system, we found that the proposed multi-level
approach to biodiversity labeling tended to confuse the participants
rather than serving as a useful aid to decision-making. From this we
conclude that the introduction of a multi-level biodiversity labeling
scheme would probably have little or no success in engaging consumers
currently uninterested in ethical or eco-labeling. However, such a
scheme may well be appreciated by consumers already conscious of the
effects of food consumption on biodiversity.
Regarding our third research question about recommendations for
biodiversity labeling, we conclude that a binary pasture-grazing label
would probably be sufcient to satisfy consumers already concerned
about the environmental impacts of meat consumption and the effect of
grazing on biodiversity. Our study conrms previous research ndings
that consumers are overwhelmed by the sheer number and diversity of
sustainability labels on the market, which they claim renders it difcult
for them to select information that is personally relevant to them. For a
signicant proportion of consumers, ethical topics such as biodiversity
conservation rank rather low on their personal list of priorities, resulting
in a lack of interest in additional information about these issues. A le-
gally binding denition of pasture-based production could help address
current levels of confusion and lack of trust in labels. in addition, we
suggest that efforts to facilitate more direct communications between
consumers and farmers might be an effective alternative to the intro-
duction of a new label. This alternative may yield additional opportu-
nities not only to stimulate changes in consumption behaviour but also
to engage citizens more actively in the environmental consequences of
their behaviour. In sum, our ndings indicate that current levels of
confusion and lack of trust in labels need to be addressed through stricter
policies at state level, including a legally binding denition of pasture-
based production and a well-designed and communicated labeling
The limitations of this study relate primarily to its explorative design
and its consequent incapacity to quantify predominant opinions. The use
of audio-only online focus groups probably resulted in less uent in-
teractions than a conversation held in full presence, thus raising the
question of whether the benets of maximizing anonymity through
audio-only techniques outweigh the costs of hindering the natural in-
teractions so important in focus groups.
To identify likely target groups for beef from grazing-based pro-
duction, future quantitative research should analyze the combined ef-
fects of biodiversity and other ethical labels and consumer preferences
for different levels of biodiversity conservation in pasture grazing. Given
our studys conrmation of the importance of purchasing contexts,
future research should include consumers in different kinds of food
shopping locations.
This research was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Edu-
cation and Research (BMBF), grant number 031B0734D, as part of the
consortium research project GreenGrass within the BMBF initiative
Agricultural Systems in the Future (Agrarsysteme der Zukunft).
CRediT authorship contribution statement
Ekaterina Stampa: Conceptualization, Methodology, Validation,
Formal analysis, Investigation, Resources, Data curation, Writing
original draft, Writing review & editing, Visualization, All authors
have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript. The
article is the authors original work, hasnt received prior publication
and isnt under consideration for publication elsewhere. Katrin Zander:
Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing review & editing, Supervi-
sion, Project administration, All authors have read and agreed to the
published version of the manuscript. The article is the authorsoriginal
work, hasnt received prior publication and isnt under consideration for
publication elsewhere.
Declaration of competing interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
E. Stampa and K. Zander
Journal of Cleaner Production 370 (2022) 133471
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
We gratefully acknowledge Matt Jones for proofreading and making
valuable comments on the manuscript. We are also grateful to the three
anonymous reviewers who provided constructive feedback and helped
us to improve the manuscript in many ways.
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... The feeding system of livestock reveals the safety, naturalness, and healthiness of meat production, as concluded in [1,2]. Natural grasslands, with biodiversity plants and free-range conditions, have superior positive advantages for the quality of beef and can contribute to the animals' welfare [3,4]. Grazing in wild grasslands could provide beef that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, meeting the consumer's satisfaction [2,5,6]. ...
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The growing population, the transition dietary towards animal-based products, and the preference for the brand of grass-feeding livestock are bringing increasing pressure on natural grasslands, especially for dry-land areas. The Xilingol League of China is famous for its free-range livestock product, however, overgrazing and herders’ benefits damage are always serious issues for this semi-arid grassland region. This study focuses on the relationship between the supply of natural grassland and the consumption of free-range livestock in the Xilingol League, and this study employed the grassland carrying capacity as the index to judge the sustainability states and its trends of the local grass-feeding system. Satellite data production of net primary production was used for grassland production, statistical livestock data and the consumption model were used for actual forage consumption, and empirical key informant interview data were used to obtain a more comprehensive understanding. The results show that: (1) the natural grassland carrying capacity of the Xilingol League fluctuated, showing improvement from 2000 to 2021; (2) the grassland management needs to be more diversified in different regions with different natural conditions; and (3) while the demand for free-range, high-quality beef is increasing, attention should be paid to the carrying capacity of natural pastures and more consideration should be taken of the benefits of balancing the livelihood of herders, policy strategies, and the customers’ preferences. Potential ways of doing this include employing technologies to improve livestock production, and further exploring and promoting the economic value of the free-range livestock and the geographical indication to get the economic–ecological win-win situation. The research framework and results would be beneficial to reveal the potential threats in pastoral areas and provide support for the optimization of the regional grass-feeding breeding system, especially in middle-income countries.
... Lack of opinion is also felt in relation to the beekeeping economy (47% of the interviewees with neutral position), but those believing in the economic struggling (36%) leave behind those that do not (8%). The beekeeping activity has externalities of enormous importance for the ecosystems, namely in pollination, raising marketing potential for honey (Stampa and Zander, 2022). ...
The research aim was to evaluate the Portuguese honey consumers’ profile, their attitudes, perceptions, and trends towards the product, production, and consumption, to allow the development of marketing strategies. With this purpose, a questionnaire was developed in accordance with the Ajzen's Planned Behaviour Theory and was then completed by 784 interviewees to retrieve quantitative and qualitative data. These included demographic, consumption pattern, and behavioural pattern variables collected in a Likert scale. Spearman correlations were performed between ordinal and continuous variables, and chi-squared tests of independency applied to contingency tables between nominal variables. A positive correlation was found between age and frequency of purchasing. Men consume honey more frequently than women. Portuguese honey has a good reputation, and it is preferred in relation to imported honey. The Portuguese consumer is not completely aware of the different floral characteristics of honey, other hive products, and positive externalities associated with beekeeping. By filling the marketing gap identified, production and consumption of honey could be increased in Portugal. Marketing campaigns promoting the health benefits of honey and other hive products, as well as the externalities of beekeeping may be advantageous.
Meat from silvopastoral systems, due to its provision of numerous ecosystem services such as wildfire risk reduction in Mediterranean forests, can address societal growing demands for meat produced with lower environmental impacts. Differentiation of meat from these systems may contribute to their economic sustainability and hence reverse their decline in the Mediterranean. This study investigated consumer preferences and willingness-to-pay (WTP) for beef and lamb meat from silvopastoral systems associated with the provision of wildfire prevention service and explored two alternative ways of labelling this service. Through a choice experiment survey considering the type of pasture, length of the grazing period, production distance and price, we gathered data from 1209 meat consumers in two Spanish cities. We considered forest grazing with a target purpose as a level in the type of pasture attribute and it was presented either as grazing to prevent wildfires or grazing to reduce biomass in two alternative versions of the valuation survey. The random parameter logit model revealed the highest preferences and WTP towards nearby production distances, followed by targeted grazing and forest grazing, while the length of the grazing period was less relevant. No significant differences in consumers' WTP were found between conveying targeted grazing either as fire prevention or biomass reduction. Our findings also suggest that consumers' preferences varied with location, attitudes towards local food and the environmental role of grazing and consumption habits. Knowledge gathered in our work contributes to understanding consumers' perceptions of the beneficial environmental impacts of meat production.
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This article defines the term valorization of biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) measures, as distinguished from their valuation, and underpins it with an assessment of private valorization examples along the agri-food value chain. Valorization incentivizes measures for promoting BES, while valuation refers to its quantification. Valuation can be a step of valorization but is not indispensable. In scientific literature, the terms valorization and valuation are often used interchangeably. In addition, there is a lack of research on private options versus conventional, public policy options. Therefore, we searched for private valorization options primarily in public sources (gray literature and websites). This led to the identification of four clusters (markets for voluntary services, labeling, and certification, environmental management/CSR, and tradable permits and quotas). Based on these clusters the options were assessed from a legal and systems dynamics perspective. In addition, the viability of selected valorization options in different future scenarios was examined. The analysis revealed a wide range of private valorization options, which in contrast to public policy options that focus almost entirely on the production stage, are spread across the agri-food value chain. Their suitability differs under different future scenarios, legal and systems conditions.
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Europe has a large variety of historic cultural agroforestry systems which provide numerous ecosystem services. Traditional agroforestry landscapes are characterized by a high level of biodiversity, but they lack an economic basis due to considerable time and financial effort required for cultivation, maintenance, and harvesting. Orchard meadows (OM) are a typical example for agroforestry systems. They combine large fruit trees with undercropping or livestock raising. This study investigates consumer knowledge and preferences for OM products and the possibilities of improved communication to increase consumer demand. Focus groups were conducted with German consumers. The results demonstrate that consumers have a very positive perception of OM juice in terms of taste, local production, health, and environmental benefits. In order to increase the demand for OM juice, communication with consumers needs to be improved by highlighting these positive attributes.
Wir präsentieren den Prototyp eines Softwarebasierten Mehrebenen-Informationssystems für Landwirte (SMILe) für die Berechnung optimierter Weideproduktionssysteme im Grünland. Anhand der im SMILE zur Verfügung stehenden Daten können moderne und nachhaltige Weideproduktionssysteme dargestellt und optimiert werden. Aus den verarbeiteten ökologischen und agronomischen Daten werden Aussagen über den Zustand von Weideflächen, daraus folgend das Beweidungspotential für bestimmte Flächen abgeleitet und eine Empfehlung an Nutzer:innen präsentiert. SMILe unterstützt Nutzer:innen bei der Planung und Umsetzung „virtueller Zäune“ als Alternative zu physischen Zäunen.
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Purpose The objective of the present research is to identify the impact of food-related and packaging-related eco-labels on consumers' perceptions of food quality and safety when an ecological claim, which explains the eco-label meaning, is provided. Design/methodology/approach One survey ( N = 472) plus one experimental lab study were used to test the hypotheses drawn from the elaboration likelihood model. The research employed a 2 (eco-label: MSC vs FSC) × 2 (ecological claim: present vs absent) between-subjects design plus a control condition (i.e. absence of eco-label). Findings When the ecological claim is absent, only food-related eco-labels were found to generate a higher food evaluation. However, when the ecological claim is present, both eco-label types (i.e. food-related and packaging-related) increased food perceptions of quality and safety because of higher feelings of pride. Originality/value From a theoretical perspective, this research identifies both food- and packaging-related eco-labels as extrinsic cues able to affect consumers' perception of food quality and safety. Moreover, the findings of this study present practical implications for package design and health policymaking.
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To address climate change, health, and food-related challenges at the international and regional level, policy makers and researchers are starting to acknowledge the importance of building and developing sustainable food systems (SFSs). This study aims to discuss the drivers of, barriers to, and policy recommendations for developing sustainable food systems in four European countries (Germany, Italy, Norway, and Romania). We used critical frame analysis to investigate national policy documents on sustainable food systems and conducted in-depth interviews with various national stakeholders representing policy makers, agrifood businesses, and civil society. The novelty of this research lies in comparing national policy approaches and stakeholders’ opinions on SFS development in a multi-country analysis. These European countries have different conditions in terms of geography, socioeconomic situation, environmental performance, and sustainability orientation. Several cross-cultural differences and gaps in the existing national policies for sustainable food systems were identified, and solutions that help overcome these issues have been suggested. The first step in developing SFS should focus on interdisciplinary and trans-sectorial policy integration combined with increasing stakeholder collaboration across all sectors of the economy. We also recommend more active involvement of consumers in the food system, developing information-sharing networks, and increasing collaborations within the food supply chains.
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Despite the importance of mountain areas and mountain farming, the literature on studies on consumers' opinion concerning mountain food products is not numerous. In order to contribute to filling this gap, this study aims at exploring Italian consumers' opinions regarding beef and wine produced in mountain areas as well as their opinions concerning the new European regulation on mountain food products. To do so, a qualitative approach with observations, focus groups and semi-structured interviews were applied. The results indicate that consumers living in mountain areas and those living in non-mountain areas, including rural areas, have different knowledge about the practices in mountain farming and different opinions concerning mountain food products. Nevertheless, both want mountain food products to be healthier and sustainably produced. Furthermore, they associate wine and beef mainly to credence attributes. As for European regulation, most criticisms are directed to the flexibility of the rules. The inclusion of wine in the mountain quality scheme is not a consensus among consumers. However, the analyses point to the existence of consumers who are interested in wines produced in mountain areas, indicating the emergence of a potential niche market for these wines.
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Global food supply has substantial impacts on nature including environmental degradation from chemicals, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss through agricultural land conversion. Over the past decade, public demand for information on sustainable consumption choices has increased. Meanwhile, development and expansion of the life cycle assessment literature has improved scientific evidence on supply chain impacts on the environment. However, data gaps and biases lead to uncertainty and undermine development of effective impact mitigation actions or behavior change policies. This study evaluates whether scientific research into the nature-related impacts of agri-food systems aligns with the needs of the public, as indicated by patterns of information seeking. We compare the relative volume of public Google queries to scientific articles related to agri-food systems and three major impacts: chemical pollution, greenhouse gas emissions or biodiversity loss. We discover that biodiversity is systematically overlooked in scientific studies on agri-food system impacts in favor of research on emissions and to a lesser extent chemical impacts. In contrast, total relative volumes of public queries on agri-food systems and biodiversity equal those for emissions impacts at global and Australian scales. Public interest in biodiversity impacts of agri-food systems increased significantly between 2009 and 2019, despite no significant change in the relative volume of biodiversity-focused scientific articles. Global public attention on chemical impacts declined significantly over this time period, with no significant change in the relative representation of this topic in scientific outputs. We recommend strategic investment into the biodiversity impacts of agri-food systems to build a knowledge base that allows the public to learn about the impacts of their choices and be inspired to change to more sustainable behaviors.
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The share of cattle grazing on grassland is decreasing in many European countries. While the production costs of intensive stall-based beef and dairy systems are usually lower per kg product, grazing-based systems provide more ecosystem services that are valued by consumers. Innovative grazing systems that apply virtual fencing technology can improve animal welfare, optimize grassland use as pasture, and contribute to biodiversity conservation. Although consumer demand for pasture-raised products could promote animal-friendly practices, consumer perception of virtual fencing remains unknown. To address this gap in research, this study developed information brochures with different lines of argumentation and tested the responses of German consumers using concurrent think aloud protocols. The results demonstrated ambivalence in consumers' attitudes to virtual fencing. The participants supported the idea of cattle pasturing to promote animal welfare and foster biodiversity declaring a willingness to contribute not only by paying price premiums for pasture-raised products but also through seeking other possibilities of action and participation. However, participants raised concerns about the effects on animal welfare and the social ramifications of the technology. The study offers recommendations for addressing these issues in communication and further contributes to the understanding of consumers' perceptions of innovation in animal production.
This study investigates consumer willingness to substitute high-emissions meat products with lower-emissions protein products, including blends of meat and vegetables. Survey data, including a choice experiment, are combined with data on the respondents’ actual purchase behaviour. The traffic light carbon label has an effect on choice behaviour, as it increases the willingness to purchase lower-emissions protein products such as chicken and meat substitutes. We further find that the willingness to purchase these lower-emissions products is largest among individuals who are already purchasing most sustainably. We discuss policy implications from the expected impacts of carbon labels, and how such labels affect different types of consumers.
Agricultural livestock production ranks among the most environmental impactful industry sectors at the global level, and within the livestock sector, beef production accounts for a large proportion of environmental damage. Beef production in Alpine mountain regions, such as in South Tyrol (Italy), is a small, but increasing agricultural sector. Thus, the aim of this study was to examine the environmental impact of different organic and conventional beef production systems in South Tyrol and to compare their environmental impact and effect on biodiversity under Alpine production conditions. Live cycle assessment (LCA) approach was used and 1 kg of live weight (LW) was chosen as functional unit (FU). Global warming potential (GWP, kg CO2-eq), acidification potential (AP, g SO2-eq), eutrophication potential (EP, g PO4-eq), non-renewable energy use (NRE, MJ-eq), land occupation (LO, m2 organic land/year) and biodiversity damage potential (BDP) expressed in potential disappeared fraction (PDF) were investigated. The study involved 18 beef cattle farms in the South Tyrolean region: Conventional calf-fattening farms (CCF = 6), organic suckler cow farms (SCF = 6), and conventional heifer/ox fattening farms (HOF = 6). The CCF system showed a higher environmental impact compared to SCF and HOF systems for all impact categories (P < 0.05). Between the organic and the conventional system (SCF and HOF), no significant differences (P > 0.05) were found for most of the considered impact categories (means ± SEM per FU): GWP: 19.8 vs 17.1 ± 4.2 kg CO2-eq, AP: 11.4 vs 9.3 ± 4.7 g SO2-eq, EP: 4.1 vs 2.8 ± 1.2, NRE: 21.9 vs 13.8 ± 7 MJ-eq, SCF and HOF respectively. Only for LO (70.8 vs 44.1 ± 17.7 m2 organic/y, P < 0.01, SCF and HOF respectively) and the effect on BDP (􀀀 1.93 vs 􀀀 0.85 ± 0.35, PDF, P < 0.01, SCF and HOF respectively) differences between organic and conventional production methods could be revealed. The study showed that beef cattle husbandry in the Alpine area has a satisfactory environmental performance. In particular, the systems studied showed a positive impact in terms of biodiversity.
Livestock production is criticised for animal welfare conditions and its impact on the environment. Pasture-raised dual-purpose cattle may be able to provide an opportunity for more sustainable livestock production. Despite societal interest and substantial grazing opportunities in several regions of northern Europe, the market share of sustainably produced beef is currently low. This study investigated consumer preferences and willingness-to-pay for pasture-raised beef from dual-purpose cattle. Data were obtained from a hypothetical choice experiment (n = 513), attributing the type of husbandry (stable-based, pasture-raised, pasture-raised using nature conservation areas), breed (no description, single-purpose, dual-purpose), production method (conventional, organic), origin (locally produced, produced in Germany), and price (5.98, 11.98, 17.98, 23.98 €/kg), and were analysed using random parameter logit modelling. The most important overall attribute was ‘type of husbandry’ followed by ‘breed’, indicating consumers' concerns for animal welfare and naturalness. Our analyses revealed a clear preference for pasture-raised dual-purpose cattle, demonstrating great market potential for animal welfare-friendly meat products.
Nudging consumers to make sustainable consumption decisions is what sustainability labeling is all about. However, the current sustainability labeling landscape is up against the challenge of too much, too complex, too similar, and too ambiguous information. Therefore, sustainability labeling schemes are looked upon as failing to support sustainability-involved consumers sufficiently. Meta sustainability labeling has been proposed as a means to reduce these challenges and strengthen the benefits of sustainability labeling. However, there is a need for systematically taking stock of and synthesizing what is known and what is yet unknown about meta sustainability labeling as input to decisions and development work regarding this instrument. This systematic literature review investigates how a meta sustainability label has been defined and assessed compared to existing, single-issue sustainability labels. First, four characteristic elements of a meta sustainability label are identified: multi-dimensionality, meta, multi-level, and universal. Second, a distinction between a meta sustainability label scheme and an integrated sustainability label scheme is proposed, the distinguishing characteristic being the (graphical) communication to the consumer. Third, benefits and disadvantages as well as facilitators of and impediments to implementing a meta sustainability scheme are identified. There is no consensus in the literature about the likelihood of a meta sustainability label doing a better job than existing sustainability labeling schemes. Perhaps the most important finding is that the debate regarding meta sustainability labeling is still in its infancy and lacks a proper evidence base. Thus, we encourage marketing and sustainability researchers to continue investigating meta sustainability labeling as a potentially useful tool for sustainability transformation.