Altruism and the demand for certified pork

Do people purchse certified meat for health, food safety reasons only or do altruistic motive play a role too? Jayson Lusk, Tomas Nilsson, and Ken Foster suggest altruistic motive do indeed play a role. See their paper “Public Preferences and Private Choices: Effect of Altruism and Free Riding on Demand for Environmentally Certified Pork” in Environmental and Resource Economics. Dordrecht: Apr 2007. Vol. 36, Iss. 4; p. 499 (23 pages).

Here is the abstract:

“Sales of private goods with affiliated public good attributes have markedly risen in recent years. This fact is difficult to explain within the paradigm of purely self-interested behavior. This paper investigates factors influencing consumer demand for pork products with certifications related to the environment, animal welfare, and antibiotics. Using psychometric scaling techniques, we measure individuals’ degree of altruism and propensity toward free riding. Results of a random parameter logit model applied to choice data obtained from a nationwide survey in the United States indicates that more altruistic individuals are willing to pay more for pork products with public good attributes than less altruistic individuals and free riders. These results indicate that private purchases of goods with public-good attributes are not simply a result of individuals’ perceptions of the ability to mitigate private risks such as food safety, but that individuals are making private choices to affect public outcomes. Results have implications for policy makers weighing the relative costs and benefits of food labeling policies versus bans related to certain livestock production practices.”

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