Know your labels

22 July 2013

Recent research for the Labelling Matters campaign showed that consumers are concerned about animal welfare and they would support a method of production labelling system that told them how the animal was kept.

Labels on our food products can currently feature confusing or even misleading claims, including misleading artwork.

Compassion is supporting the Labelling Matters campaign's call for method of production labelling on all meat and dairy products in the EU. In the meantime, what can consumers who care about higher animal welfare do to make sure their concerns are reflected in what they buy?

Remember to look out for free-range and organic produce.

Free-range eggs come from laying hens that have had access to the outdoors. Free-range meat chickens are given continuous access to an outdoor range during the daytime. In addition, they grow more slowly than intensive chickens, meaning that they tend to have better leg and heart health and a much higher quality of life.

When buying pig meat, Soil Association labels equal higher welfare. Other labels to be aware of, are:

Outdoor bred

 

Pig meat labelled as 'outdoor bred' means that the sows are kept free-range, outdoors with huts for shelter and for having piglets. There are no sow stalls or farrowing crates and the huts are provided with straw. At weaning, the piglets are taken indoors and reared in extensive or intensive conditions. In these systems, sows have a higher quality of life and are able to act naturally by building nests, rooting, wallowing and foraging. The piglets benefit from the free-range conditions until they are weaned.

Outdoor reared

 

Pig meat labelled as 'outdoor reared' means that the piglets are born outside (without stalls or crates) and spend around half of their lives outside.

Free-range

 

Whilst there is no legal definition of 'free-range pork', a voluntary industry code in the UK requires that free-range pigs have permanent access to pasture: born outside (without stalls or crates) and then reared outside throughout their lives.

Intrinsically linked to the necessity of animal product labelling is the launch of the Food Contamination Report. On 16th July, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee at Westminster stated there was a lack of clarity about the role of the FSA in responding to the contamination of beef products, that came to light in early 2013. Consumer confidence has plummeted as the pace of investigations into the horsemeat scandal was slow and to date no-one has been penalised for what was one of the most shocking food scandals in decades.

It has been reported that the Chair of the Committee, Anne McIntosh MP said: "Regular and detailed DNA tests are needed on all meat or meat-based ingredients which form part of a processed or frozen meat product. Consumers need to know that what they buy is what the label says it is."

We agree but think the labels need to be much clearer. We believe that clear and honest labelling will benefit consumers, farmers and animals. To join us, go to Labelling Matters.


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