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A call for honest meat labelling

It’s not uncommon to pick up a meat or dairy product in the supermarket labelled with bucolic images of livestock, with endless space and luscious green grass. Alongside accompanying language like ‘farm fresh’, ‘all natural’ or ‘outdoor reared’, consumers are given the impression the animals are treated well on these farms. The reality, however, is that these terms are completely meaningless and aren’t regulated.

Some assurance and regulatory schemes exist, like the organic label, but other products (in general lower welfare/factory farmed products) have no labelling at all, or even worse, misleading jargon like the terms mentioned above.

The truth behind a sausage or bacon pack labelled with ‘farm fresh’ and images of green fields or woodland can be quite the contrast – factory farmed pigs are kept in cramp conditions indoors, never seeing sunlight or eating fresh grass.

Poor labelling is unfair to farmers who work hard to maintain higher welfare

The only exception to this labelling mess is eggs. In 2004, it became mandatory for producers and retailers to clearly label the farming system in which the hens live, i.e. ‘eggs from caged hens’, ‘barn eggs’, ‘free range’. This change had a staggering effect: UK production of cage free eggs has increased from 31 per cent to over 60 per cent.

But Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) are calling for a change though their Honest Labelling campaign. By signing their petition, you can help them to get Defra to end this confusion by requiring all meat and dairy products to be labelled with the standard of farming.

Eight out of 10 UK consumers want to know how farm animals were reared, so the evidence is there that shoppers want transparency. The current system is unethical, and new regulations would be empowering for consumers, letting them make an informed choice; fairer to farmers, allowing British farmers who work hard towards higher welfare standards to be recognised and protected from competition of lower welfare products; and finally, better for retailers, who want to support consumer choice and provide good information.

Find out more about CIWF’s campaign and sign the petition here.


    Emily Muddeman

    As social media manager at Riverford, Emily is at the forefront of sharing the company's story and ethical values. She believes traceability and transparency are so important in the food industry and loves being a part of that through telling the story of Riverford and helping people connect with their food and the issues around it.

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