# Summary

• I Fermi estimate corporate campaigns for chicken welfare are 714 times as cost-effective as buying organic instead of barn eggs in the European Union (EU), but that this is still 2.11 times as cost-effective as GiveWell’s top charities.
• The variation in the cost-effectiveness of animal welfare interventions might be similar to that in global health and development.
• I calculate GiveWell’s top charities are 1.40 k times as cost-effective as unconditional cash transfers to a person earning the mean income in the EU.
• Yet, this is just one comparison, so I am not confident there is actually similar variation in the cost-effectiveness of animal welfare interventions.

# Context

A comment from Johannes Ackva prompted me to think about how the best animal welfare interventions compare with a basic direct way of helping animals somewhat analogous to unconditional cash transfer to people in extreme poverty, as enabled by GiveDirectly in the context of global health and development. I presume corporate campaigns for chicken welfare are an example of the best interventions, and buying organic instead of barn eggs an instance of a basic direct one.

# Calculations

My calculations are in this Sheet.

I Fermi estimate the cost-effectiveness of buying organic instead of barn eggs in the EU as follows:

• Organic and barn class A eggs in the EU (codes 0 and 2) at the start of April costed 4.1 and 2.3 €/kg (p. 1). So I set the cost of buying organic instead of barn eggs to 1.8 €/kg (= 4.1 - 2.3), i.e. 1.93 \$/kg (= 1.8*1.07).
• EU’s egg production in 2021 was 6.26 Mt, corresponding to 96 billion eggs. So I suppose a mean mass per egg of 0.0652 kg (= 6.26*10^9/(96*10^9)). This implies a cost of buying organic instead of barn eggs of 0.126 \$/egg (= 1.93*0.0652).
• I assume each hen produces “300 eggs a year”. Therefore I get a cost of buying organic instead of barn eggs of 37.8 \$/chicken-year (= 0.126*300).
• I estimated the welfare per time of a hen in barn egg production is -0.580 times that of a random human, considering:
• The time hens experience each of the 4 pain categories defined by the Welfare Footprint Project (WFP).
• Excruciating pain is 1 k times as bad as disabling pain[1].
• Disabling pain is 100 times as bad as hurtful pain.
• Hurtful pain is 10 times as bad as annoying pain.
• Sleeping is morally neutral.
• The lifespan of hens is 70 weeks (= (60 + 80)/2), which is the mean of the lower and upper bound.
• For both hens and a random human, 8 h each day is spent sleeping, i.e. 1/3 (= 8/24) of the time.
• For hens, the welfare from positive experiences per time awake is symmetric of that of hurtful pain.
• For a random human, the welfare per time awake is symmetric of that of hurtful pain.
• Rethink Priorities’ median welfare range of chickens of 0.332.
• I speculate the welfare per time of a hen in organic egg production as a fraction of the welfare range of chickens equals the welfare of a random human as a fraction of the welfare range of humans. Consequently, for the welfare range just above, I get a welfare per time of a hen in organic egg production of 0.332 times that of a random human.
• Based on the 2 points above, I conclude the difference between the welfare per time of a hen in organic and barn egg production is 0.912 (= 0.332 + 0.580) times that of a random human.
• As a consequence, the cost-effectiveness of buying organic instead of barn eggs is equivalent to providing 0.0241 human-year/\$ (= 0.912/37.8).
• The ratio between humans’ healthy and total life expectancy at birth in 2016 was 87.0 % (= 63.1/72.5). As a result, the cost-effectiveness of buying organic instead of barn eggs can be described as averting 0.0210 DALY/\$ (= 0.0241*0.870).

I determined corporate campaigns for chicken welfare avert 15.0 DALY/\$, and GiveWell’s top charities 0.00994 DALY/\$. So I think corporate campaigns for chicken welfare are 714 (= 15.0/0.0210) times as cost-effective as buying organic instead of barn eggs in the EU, but that this is still 2.11 (= 0.0210/0.00994) times as cost-effective as GiveWell’s top charities.

The variation in the cost-effectiveness of animal welfare interventions might be similar to that in global health and development. I calculate GiveWell’s top charities are 1.40 k (= 140*10) times as cost-effective as unconditional cash transfers to a person earning the mean income in the EU:

• EU’s gross national income per capita in 2022 was 40.1 k\$, i.e. 140 (= 40.1*10^3/286) times the annual consumption of GiveDirectly’s recipients in 2022 of 286 \$. This corresponds to just 0.783 \$/d (= 286/365.25), so I guess the income of GiveDirectly’s recipients is quite similar to their consumption.
• GiveWell’s cost-effectiveness bar is 10 times the cost-effectiveness of GiveDirectly, so GiveWell’s top charities are arguably 10 times as cost-effective as GiveDirectly.

My estimate for the ratio between the cost-effectiveness of corporate campaigns for chicken welfare and buying organic instead of barn eggs in the EU is 51.0 % (= 714/(1.40*10^3)) that between the cost-effectiveness of GiveWell’s top charities and unconditional cash transfers to a person earning the mean income in the EU. Yet, this is just one comparison, so I am not confident there is actually similar variation in the cost-effectiveness of animal welfare interventions.

1. ^

I encourage you to check this post from algekalipso, and this from Ren Springlea to get a sense of why I think the intensity can vary so much.

# Reactions

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I speculate the welfare per time of a hen in organic egg production as a fraction of the welfare range of chickens equals the welfare of a random human as a fraction of the welfare range of humans. Consequently, for the welfare range just above, I get a welfare per time of a hen in organic egg production of 0.332 times that of a random human.

I know you say this is speculative, so I'm not holding you to actually thinking this is correct. However, I know this would probably be a hotly-contested claim by many. From a rights perspective, there's an obvious disagreement, but even from a welfare/pain perspective, organic hens are still susceptible to keel bone fractures (though possibly to a slightly lesser extent). Because keel bone fractures play such a large role in the suffering of layer hens, I think it's worth reconsidering this claim.

This could alter your conclusion pretty dramatically. For instance, if we say we assume the suffering of organic hens is only half the suffering of barn hens (I want to be clear I picked one half just to be easy and not because I think it's correct - haven't gone through the calculations here), then I calculate corporate campaigns are 2,247 times as cost-effective as buying organic eggs keeping everything else in this model the same.

This would imply even more variation in cost-effectiveness in animal welfare interventions. In case it wasn't clear above, I am also not certain (or anywhere near so) of the difference in variation. I just wanted to point out this one particular area of high uncertainty is likely a major driver of this analysis.

Thanks for highlighting that, Blake! I estimated the welfare per time as a fraction of the welfare range for a hen in a conventional cage and barn egg production (cage-free aviary) are -3.83 and -1.17 times that of a random human. So my (speculative) assumption that the welfare per time as a fraction of the welfare range for a hen in organic egg production equals that of a random human implies the difference between the welfare per time of a hen in organic and barn egg production is 81.6 % (= (1 + 1.17)/(-1.17 + 3.83)) of the difference between the welfare per time of a hen in barn egg production and a conventional cage. In other words, I am (implicitly) assuming the improvement from going from barn to organic egg production is 81.6 % that from going from a conventional cage to barn egg production. This sounds reasonable to me, but it is hard to tell. It would be nice to have data from WFP.

There might be less variation in the cost-effectiveness of animal welfare interventions than in global health and development.

@Blake Hannagan, I have now updated the sentence above to:

The variation in the cost-effectiveness of animal welfare interventions might be similar to that in global health and development.

There are uncertainties as you pointed out, and my original sentence was referring to a previous version of the post where I had estimated buying organic instead of barn eggs was 279 times as cost-effective as corporate campaigns (instead of 714 as published in the post).

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