The majority of shoppers are confused about animal welfare standards and would like clear, hierarchical rankings to help them better understand different standards, schemes and logos, new research for The Grocer has found.

Just 10% of consumers say they have a good understanding of animal welfare standards and logos for meat, poultry and eggs, and how they differ. The majority - 67% - say they understand only some standards but not others, while 18% claim to be unsure about welfare standards across the board.

Some 49% of shoppers say they would like more information on what different welfare schemes and logos mean, while 39% would like to see rankings of which schemes and logos offer the highest standards.

The results showed that welfare standards were an important and emotive subject for shoppers, said Blake Gladman, research and insight manager at Him! which carried out the survey of 100 consumer panellists for The Grocer.

Nearly 20% of panel members say they would like visual aids to help them understand standards, such as videos or pictures of animals in different welfare systems. The survey also asked shoppers to identify which specific welfare standards and logos they felt they knew most about and understood best. Simple descriptors, such as free-range and organic, scored well with shoppers, while welfare and assurance brands, such as Red Tractor, Soil Association and RSPCA Freedom Foods, tended to do less well. Eighty-four percent of shoppers said they knew what free-range meant and 66% said they understood the term organic, but just 21% said they understood the Red Tractor, 13% the Soil Association and 14% RSPCA Freedom Food.

Surprisingly, 40% of consumers claimed they had a good understanding of what the terms ‘pasture-fed’ or ‘grass-fed’ meant from an animal welfare perspective, even though there are currently very few products that are marketed as grass-fed or pasture-fed in the UK.

In the US, products marketed as ‘grass-fed’ have started to emerge as a small but significant niche market, which attracts a considerable price premium, and efforts are under way in the UK to create a similar market here.

The Pasture Fed Livestock Association last year launched the Pastoral scheme to market grass-fed beef and lamb, with a similar scheme - called Pasture Promise - launching for dairy products in October.