Is Less More? Investigating Citizen and Consumer Preferences for the Future Direction of Livestock Farming Policy

Maureen Schulze*, Winnie Isabel Sonntag, Marie von Meyer-Höfer

*Corresponding author for this work

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The sustainable transition of livestock farming has moved on the agenda of international and national policy regulations aimed at the mounting sustainability challenges. Until now, the political debate has been focused on how to change production and management practices to enhance animal welfare or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The question about the number of livestock, however, has been neglected so far. In particular, this is true for the question of what a socially accepted development of livestock numbers could look like. Thus, the objective of this study was to investigate citizen preferences for a sustainable transition of livestock farming regarding the number of livestock, and whether citizen preferences align with consumer preferences. The sample consisted of 1030 German participants who were surveyed online in January and February 2021. A latent profile analysis (LPA) identified two sub-groups within the population labelled “status-quo proponents” (49.0%) and “proponents of a sustainable transition” (51.0%) that differed in their perception of the development of future livestock numbers. “Status-quo proponents” were aware of the sustainability challenges in livestock production but less interested in supporting the transition with their consumption behavior of animal-based products. For “proponents of a sustainable transition”, a reduction of livestock numbers was a viable pathway for the livestock sector. They were willing to adapt their consumption behavior accordingly. To reach a socially accepted transition of livestock farming, including a reduction of animal numbers, the transition should be supported by a combination of political push and pull measures, such as financial support for farmers, as well as information provision, nudging, and taxes on the market side.
Original languageEnglish
Article number136136
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 26 January 2023.


  • Sustainable livestock sector
  • Livestock numbers
  • Transformation
  • Future workshops
  • Scenario
  • Latent profile analysis

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