If you think media coverage on animal-welfare issues isn’t having an impact on consumers, think again. A study that reviewed U.S. newspapers and magazines from 1982 to 2008 suggested that media coverage of animal-welfare issues has reduced pork and poultry demand but has not directly impacted beef demand.

That’s not to say beef is immune to animal-welfare messages, says Glynn Tonsor, Kansas State University agricultural economist, who conducted the study with Nicole Olynk, Purdue University agricultural economist. The research found that consumers impacted by the animal-welfare media reports did not reallocate spending between meat products but rather switched purchases to non-meat food products in response.

This is a first snapshot, and Tonsor notes more research is needed. The potential changes in consumer buying need to be reviewed with production costs associated with adjustments in on-farm production practices, he says. That would better estimate the long-term economic influences on consumers, livestock producers, the livestock and meat supply chain, as well as society, Tonsor notes.