Perceptions win over facts 10 to 0: a new approach is needed!

Considerations from a number of conferences, articles and research papers dedicated to understanding ‘the influence of public perception on poultry production systems’ confirm that the future of the poultry industry will be increasingly defined by the opinions and perceptions of an increasingly disconnected community, innately suspicious of the industry’s motives and sceptical of existing industry practices.

For the poultry industry, the issue becomes challenging because the detractors of poultry farming communicate by skilfully acting on perceptions that are influenced by a combination of instrumentally used images, biased or distorted information, and the industry’s simultaneous lack of ability to communicate effectively and to go beyond the belief that it is without fault.

On this aspect it is now clear that the industry must be able to do some additional thinking:

in addition to managing animal welfare in the best possible way to also protect its own commercial interests, the industry will have to listen to the public/customers to understand what their concerns are and intervene on misperceptions before they arise.

Here are some excerpts from the document, which you can also read in full at this link

Kite18Fiction is Fact- Public Perception WPSA New Zealand

We believe the contents of the two documents you can find at the links below are also enlightening

SinclairEtAl22 Perceptions animals welfare Frontiers fanim-03-960379

PericEtAl 20 Consumer Welfare Perception Serbia and Willingness to Pay WPC poster


From the proceedings of the NZ Poultry Industry Conference, 2018. Vol. 14

“Those involved in the poultry industry have traditionally understood facts as that which is proven by hard scientific data or other ‘evidence’, and a fact as something ‘real’. However, facts are no longer the reality in which we operate. Perception is the new reality and, yes, in many operational areas of industry, fiction has become fact. To successfully adapt to this new reality, we must first accept that we are in a new operating environment, where we can no longer expect community acceptance; where we must gain community acceptance, rather than assume that we will always gain understanding and acceptance through ‘education’. Building trust requires a deep understanding of the community’s goals and perceptions and the reasons behind them, identifying common ground, shared interests and values, engaging with the community on issues that affect it – even compromising in some cases – and demonstrating that the community’s support is deserved.

It is impossible to build trust without understanding what the community’s current views and perceptions are and what underlying concerns and beliefs underpin them.

Interestingly, only 4% of respondents correctly indicated that cages are not used for broiler production in Australia, a result unchanged from the last similar survey conducted in 2012, illustrating how ineffective the industry’s considerable efforts in communicating the reality of broiler farming practices in Australia to the community have been.

Identifying common ground

It is easier to start a conversation when you have a common interest. Understanding where shared interests and values lie can provide the ideal starting point for a discussion about industry practices.

To build trust, it is necessary to have a dialogue with the community on issues that affect it. A good starting point is the ground for confrontation. Engagement is not about ‘educating’ the other side; it is about sharing and discussing each other’s issues and concerns, respecting each other’s points of view and agreeing on points of common interest, and perhaps even agreeing on areas where we cannot reconcile our respective positions.

Demonstrating that the industry deserves the trust of the community

This may be the most challenging hurdle for industry to tackle, because it requires transparency and a commitment to be honest about performance in the areas of greatest community concern and to ‘do what we say we will do’.


One of the biggest obstacles to developing and maintaining trust is when one party appears to be hiding something. How can industry expect the community to trust it if it is not willing to open up and show its practices? This can be difficult to achieve on a practical level because of the physical and biosecurity challenges involved in allowing the public access to farms, but innovative solutions are available to overcome these, including webcam monitoring inside the poultry houses and windows and observation systems for visitors.

Building trust is not a public relations exercise; it requires changing practices and improving performance. To do so, the industry and its participants must examine how well they do what they say they do and ask themselves, “Are we really doing the right thing 100 per cent (or at least most) of the time?” Addressing and resolving the issue of performance versus community issues is perhaps one of the most challenging things for any industry to tackle. its engagement with the community.

Is there a role for science?

Science has and will always have a role to play in helping to establish the key benchmarks for appropriate and best practices. Science should underpin what industry aims to achieve in its dialogue with the community and can help us decide which issues we should be willing to compromise on and which we are prepared to defend at all costs.”

The Editorial Board of M.A.C.