Method of production labelling on animal products

Food labels are an important way so consumers can make informed choices about what they eat © RSPCA

06.08.18 

With hundreds of millions of animals farmed for food in the UK each year, and an increasing amount of media coverage of the conditions under which farmed animals are reared, we're strengthening our call for method of production labelling on all animal products to be made mandatory.

Meat and dairy labelling needs to be clearer

Our chief scientific officer, Dr Julia Wrathall, said:

With more of us interested in where our food comes from than ever before, it’s become worryingly easy for unclear or absent labels to cause confusion and make it difficult for consumers to understand which farming system they're supporting through their purchases.

Food labels are an important way of ensuring consumers can make informed choices about what they eat. Compulsory labelling can also help to raise standards of farm animal welfare as well as providing due recognition and support to farmers who rear animals under higher welfare production systems. Eggs, which by law already have to be clearly labelled with how they are produced, are a great example of this. That’s why we're calling for action for better labelling.

It’s been 14 years since mandatory labelling was introduced for eggs, something we campaigned heavily for, and it’s high time consumers were given the same information for meat and dairy products.

How clearer meat and dairy labelling helps

Currently no laws are in place requiring information on products describing how animals are farmed for meat and dairy. We believe this is unacceptable for the farm animals, confusing for shoppers and unfair to those farmers who are providing a better life for their animals, yet are failing to be recognised for it.

We're calling for the introduction of clear, factual and simple mandatory labelling on all animal products, making it easy for consumers to understand how that animal was reared, so they can make an informed choice about their purchase.

Our team of farm animal welfare specialists work closely with the farming and food industries, and would be keen to see a solution that consults with, and works for everyone.

How the egg labelling law helped animal welfare

The egg labelling law allows consumers to clearly see if the eggs they're buying have been laid in a cage, barn, free range or organic system. Consumer demand for eggs in the UK produced in cage-free production systems has risen hugely since the labelling law was introduced. This increase has driven the egg industry to invest more and more in barn and free range laying hen systems, with around 52 percent of all UK eggs now coming from cage-free systems.

How we can help promote higher welfare with our choices

Julia added:

Encouragingly, in its recent Health and Harmony paper, the UK Government has already recognized the importance of method of production labelling as a tool to help inform consumers in England, and now we'll be giving our full support to this to ensure it's achieved.

However, consumers have the power to start changing the status quo right now through the purchases they make in supermarkets every day. By choosing to buy higher welfare labelled meat and dairy products that are already labelled, like those certified by RSPCA Assured, they're giving the message directly to the retailers that this is what they want. This is what they will choose to buy if and when such products are clearly labelled.

Learn more about what else we're campaigning for to help animal welfare.

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