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RSPCA urges government to honour its food labelling promise

7 January 2019, at 12:00am

UK - “Method of production” labelling should be mandatory for all animal products in the UK if the government is serious about better animal welfare post-Brexit, claims the RSPCA

Shoppers want to buy higher-welfare products but a lack of clear labelling can mean they are left confused or unsure whether what they are buying is of a standard they expect. Mandatory method of production labelling would give consumers real choice as well as giving producers an incentive to improve welfare.

Speaking at the Oxford Real Farming Conference on 3 January 2019, RSPCA Head of Public Affairs David Bowles said: “While we were encouraged when the government put it on record that mandatory food product labelling would be included in the UK’s new Agriculture Bill, it now needs to make good on that promise.

“The market for higher welfare food would be given a huge boost with ‘method of production’ food labelling. It would enable shoppers to make informed buying choices based on how farm animals are kept. Studies show that consumers want this type of labelling, which has already driven the significant growth in the purchase of higher welfare eggs resulting in a shift away from caged hens.”

The research bears this out:

  • Eight out of ten (83 percent) UK shoppers want compulsory method of production labelling - currently found only on whole eggs and egg boxes - to be extended to all meat and dairy products, according to a 2013 survey by QA Research.
  • A 2017 YouGov survey2 revealed that 8 out of 10 (77 percent) UK shoppers said they would be encouraged to buy higher welfare products if there was consistent labelling across meat and dairy products.
  • • A 2018 YouGov survey3 revealed that two-thirds (67 percent) of British people believed that food produced using methods prohibited in the UK - such as foie gras - should not be allowed into the UK after Brexit.

David Bowles continued: “There is currently little opportunity for consumers to have this information at the point of sale. At the moment, products can feature rolling green fields, happy animals or fictional farm names on the labels of their animal products, regardless of the conditions those farm animals were raised in, which risks consumers believing they are buying a higher welfare product when in fact they may not.

“Mandatory method of production could support farmers who are already producing to higher standards, but have no means to differentiate their product in the market due to current ambiguous labelling terms. It would also reward those farmers who are prepared to invest in higher welfare systems and help create a brand of quality British food as the Government negotiates new trade deals and market access post-Brexit.”