Food Ethics

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Food Retailers as Mediating Gatekeepers between Farmers and Consumers in the Supply Chain of Animal Welfare Meat - Studying Retailers’ Motives in Marketing Pasture-Based Beef

  • Maureen SchulzeEmail author
  • Achim Spiller
  • Antje Risius
Research Article


Although there is increasing public criticism of intensive livestock production, the market share of meat with an animal welfare standard exceeding legal requirements remains small. Food retailers, in their role as gatekeepers, can influence changes in production and consumption patterns. Their strategic role between farmers and consumers allows them to control commodity, information and value flow and therefore places them into a key position when it comes to the distribution of meat with a higher animal welfare standard. The aim of this explorative study is to identify factors which motivate food retailers to take on the marketing of products of increased animal welfare standards, in this case, pasture-based beef. Nine in depth-interviews were conducted with representatives of the food retail industry. The interviews took place in June 2018, followed a structured guideline and were transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were categorized and evaluated using qualitative content analysis. Results showed that food retailers are driven by both extrinsic and intrinsic motives. The main extrinsic motive is the perceived customer demand. Consciousness for animal welfare and the regional production cycles, including close connection between farmers and retailers are inherently intrinsic motives. Interestingly, the interviewed retailers show a high personal interest and moral obligation with regard to sourcing and marketing pasture-based beef. As such, this research finds innovative retailers, who take on a new role in sustainable food systems which exceed classical distribution functions and may have a considerable effect in transforming the food system.


Food retailing Gatekeeper Animal welfare Motives Pasture-based beef 



The authors greatfully ackowledge funding from the “Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)” and the “Ministry of Science and Arts” in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Marketing of Food and Agricultural ProductsUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany

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