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Honest Labelling

Right now farming system information on meat and dairy products is a confusing mess.

Some voluntary schemes and assurance schemes exist, which label some products, other products carry no labels at all. Most factory farmed products carry no information, leaving consumers unable to make informed choices. On top of this many products have labels or packaging that is undefined, unclear or outright misleading. A pork product from a factory farmed pig may carry labels says ‘farm fresh’ or ‘all natural’ and packaging carrying images of green fields or woodland. The truth behind these misleading labels can be dark and disturbing—factory farmed animals are kept indoors in cramped, barren conditions and never feel sunlight on their backs or experience grass underneath their feet.

The exception to this confusion is the labelling of eggs. It is a legal requirement for all eggs to be labelled, and for the label to give information about the farming system the hen is living in. No such legal requirements exist for other animal products.

Compassion is asking DEFRA to end this confusion by requiring all meat and dairy products to be labelled by their ‘method of production’.

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Method of production labelling will tell the consumer about the farming system in which an animal was raised. For example, meat from factory farmed animals could be labelled as ‘intensive indoor’, and better indoor systems where animals are given more space could be labelled as ‘improved indoor’. Higher welfare systems where animals are kept primarily outside would be labelled as ‘free range’ and ‘organic.’

Mandatory method of production labelling is empowering for consumers, fairer for farmers, and can improve the lives of millions of farm animals each year.

We know that more than 70% of the animals raised in the UK each year are factory farmed. These inhumane farming practices are hidden behind closed doors, out of the public view. Consumers want to be able to choose foods that are better for animal welfare.

8 out of 10 UK consumers want to know how farm animals were reared and mandatory labelling can provide real choice.

First came the egg…

Producers and retailers are legally required to label eggs, stating the farming system in which the hens live. Eggs are labelled as 'eggs from caged hens', 'barn eggs', 'free range' or ‘organic’. After the introduction of this mandatory labelling scheme for eggs in 2004, UK production of cage-free eggs increased from 31% in 2003 to over 60% at present.

Consumers finally had the full picture, and started buying higher welfare eggs as a result.

We need a clear labelling law, like that which currently exists for eggs, extended to all meat and dairy products. This would allow animal welfare to be part of every shopping choice.

Method of production labelling for all meat and dairy products is…

  • EMPOWERING FOR CONSUMERS. When consumers have clear labelling, they tend to make an informed choice to buy higher welfare products.
  • FAIR FOR FARMERS. British farmers working to higher welfare standards will be recognised with clear labelling, and protected from lower welfare imports that currently benefit from confusing labels.
  • BETTER FOR RETAILERS. Many retailers have identified providing good information to their customers as a priority, and want to support consumer choice.

Ultimately, method of production labelling on all meat a dairy products would improve billions of farm animals’ lives. The existing egg labelling scheme gives clear evidence that when we are informed, we make higher welfare choices.