Would you recognise a factory farmed sausage?
Take a look at this label. Not what you’d expect to see on your average pack of sausages?
Meat and dairy labels can be misleading. Many show idyllic images of farmyard animals in picturesque fields, accompanied by encouraging phrases like ‘farm fresh’ or ‘all natural’. But what often lies behind these cheerful scenes is shocking.
Although around 70% of UK farm animals are reared in intensive systems, there’s no law requiring food labels to say how an animal has been raised – except for whole hens’ eggs.
That means meat and dairy packaging can display green meadows like these:
...but come from low welfare farms like these:
In 2018, we created a splash in the press by calling out Dairylea and Bernard Matthews products, pictured above, about their misleading labelling. Since then, it appears Dairylea has made minor changes to its labels. Yet, this packaging still shows lush green fields and a cheerful, galloping cow – despite the fact that, at the time of writing, Mondelez, the owner of Dairylea, has no specific requirements for grazing access and offers no information on the Dairylea website about welfare standards.
As for Bernard Matthews, we’ve seen no change to the quaint, rolling fields featured on the brand’s packaging – despite the fact that the vast majority of turkeys are reared entirely indoors. No change either to the charming countryside scenes on the labels of Richmond sausages – scenes that could easily mislead customers into believing most UK pigs spend their lives frolicking in such fields. The reality? Around 60% of UK pigs are forced to give birth and raise their piglets in cages, confined in intensive conditions for weeks on end.
Case study: Eggs
The evidence is clear: once consumers know the full story, many of us choose higher welfare. Take eggs, for example. Compassion supporters were part of a hard-fought campaign that, in 2004, resulted in the introduction of mandatory egg labelling across Europe. By law, egg producers and retailers now have to clearly label whether hens have been raised in caged, barn, free range or organic systems.
Since then, cage-free egg production has doubled, from accounting for 31% of the market in 2003 to 60% today. Consumers were finally given the full picture, and started buying higher welfare eggs as a result.
Our proposal is simple: to extend this mandatory method of production labelling system to all meat and dairy products.
We’ve developed a proposed labelling matrix – our solution to the problem. We’ve already presented this to Defra and are now calling for further action.