Only 35% of shoppers are confident about animal welfare standards, and a majority want to buy higher welfare products, according to an IGD study.

The report, which was commissioned by the RSPCA, points the finger squarely at recent food scares, like BSE and avian flu, for undermining consumer confidence in meat.

In an accompanying survey of nearly 1000 adults, the IGD found 10% claimed to always buy high welfare meat products, such as outdoor-reared pork and chicken carrying the Freedom Foods logo. But a much larger 54% said they bought some high welfare lines.

Report author Julie Starck said: "All in all, two-thirds of shoppers are using welfare when they make decisions on what to buy."

Such high awareness levels presented an opportunity for organisations like Freedom Food to increase sales, she added. "It's a question of converting those who dabble into strong supporters. That's partly to do with merchandising, where sales could benefit from putting all high welfare products side by side."

The survey also found welfare concerns were the purchase trigger for welfare products in only 20% of cases. Though that was the largest single factor, healthiness also scored highly in 16%, taste in 14% and 'naturalness' in 9%.

"Consumers aren't simply going to pick something up unless it is also top quality and tasty," Starck added.

Freedom Foods welcomed the report and said it showed there was ample opportunity for sales growth.

Though most people still don't recognise the Freedom Food logo, Stephen Tait, head of Freedom Food marketing said sales of chicken alone in the scheme were worth in excess of £150m. "We've been very successful at building the range in retailers this year."