Animal welfare and improving, monitoring and evaluating it are a high priority for the American Meat Institute and its members. But animal welfare, specifically for cattle and swine, is a complex subject not without its own controversies.

At the 2012 AMI Animal Care & Handling Conference this week in Kansas City, Mo., veterinary experts discussed the interface between animal welfare and consumers.

Gail Golab, PhD, DVM, Dipl. ACAW, director of Animal Welfare for the American Veterinary Medical Association, said there are three areas of controversy:

1. Different people evaluate animal welfare differently. “One group thinks about what is going on with the body such as health, reproduction and growth,” she explains. “A second group focuses on the mind and how animals feel, and their pain, suffering, contentment and pleasure.” The third equates welfare with natural and how close does the animal find itself to if it was “free-living” in nature. Golab says we are looking at intersection of these three.