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MPhil - The feasibility of a pig welfare assurance scheme in Ireland; an analysis of retailers and consumers expectations, attitudes and understanding within the domestic and key UK export market, and economic evaluation of the costs and benefits

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof N O'Connell  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Due to fluctuations in income and evolving consumer demands, Irish pig farmers are keen to develop alternative markets for their product. Other countries have already established assured specialty products, such as producing pigs using high welfare systems. Under these schemes farmers receive a premium to compensate for the costs which high welfare systems necessitate, relative to conventional ones. In Ireland no such scheme exists, although a Eurobarometer survey in 2017 found that Irish citizens have had the second highest increase in the level of concern about the welfare of farmed animals since the preceding survey in 2006. Thus it is timely to investigate whether there is market scope for development of a scheme in this country.

This MPhil project will initially review pig welfare standards and schemes that are established in other countries. The scholar will then carry out a qualitative analysis of retailer influence in relation to high welfare products. This will involve structured interviews with lead buyers from major retailers in both Ireland and the UK. Finally, consumers in both Ireland and the UK will be surveyed to determine expectations, understanding and attitudes to pig production using high standards of animal welfare, and establish willingness to pay for guaranteed high welfare products. Data will be integrated into the Teagasc Pig Production Model to determine whether likely premiums would ensure financial viability for producers. Thus the project forms an essential first step in development of an alternative pig product which could allow producers to diversify, improve animal welfare, and consequently improve the sustainability of the Irish pig industry.


Applicants should have a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree, or a Second Class Honours degree plus a Master’s degree with Merit/Commendation or equivalent. The undergraduate degree should be in Agricultural Science, Social Science, Food Marketing or related discipline. Applicants that do not meet these entry criteria but have very substantial and relevant work experience may also be considered at the discretion of the selection panel. The candidate should be self-motivated and willing to liaise directly with stakeholders in the pig supply chain. 

Application Procedure

Applicants should submit an application to the MPhil in Biological Sciences programme using the Queen's applications portal ( An electronic copy of a Curriculum Vitae (to include the names and contact details of two referees) and a cover letter, which should describe your interest in the project and the relevance of your academic training to this Scholarship, should be uploaded. 

Please address any queries to Dr Keelin O’Driscoll: [Email Address Removed]

Anticipated dates (please note that these dates may change):

Closing date for applications: 6th July 2021

Interviews of shortlisted candidates: last week of July

MPhil start date: 1st October 2021

Funding Notes

Teagasc MPhil scholarship funding is €24,000 p.a. and includes fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum for 2 years. Candidates from outside UK/Ireland may apply but additional funding for International fees is not available and must be provided by the scholar. The scholar will be primarily based at the Teagasc Research Centre in Fermoy Co. Cork, but may also be required to spend time at the Teagasc Ashtown site. The scholar will be registered at Queen’s University Belfast and will attend training courses, events and meetings there as required. All arrangements will be subject to Covid-19 regulations.