The British Veterinary Association (BVA) call for the introduction of a mandatory method of production labelling on meat and dairy products needs to be treated with some “caution” says the National Pig Association (NPA).
While the BVA claimed the move could offer UK food producers and farmers a unique selling point in the post-Brexit world, NPA chief executive, Zoe Davies (pictured above), said this sort of labelling could give the “wrong impression to consumers” as there was not always a clear correlation between the production system and the welfare of animals.
“The Red Tractor and RSPCA Assured labels already provide consumers what they need to know and assure standards,” she said.
“You can’t judge the welfare of an animal simply by whether it was reared indoors or outdoors. For example, in the UK, many of our indoor pig rearing systems are straw-based so cannot be compared with EU indoor reared pigs.
“It is also well-established that factors like the quality of husbandry and the state of buildings and equipment have an influence on animals’ health and welfare.”
Red Tractor Assurance
Assured Food Standards’ chief executive, David Clarke, also commented on the BVA call, pointing out that the Red Tractor logo, which appears on about £12bn worth of food every year, is “far and away” the easiest way for British shoppers to identify food that has been processed in a humane way.
“When it comes to the BVA’s call for labelling of farming systems, therefore, legislation already exists to define free range chicken production and Red Tractor has standards to define good husbandry in both free range and housed systems,” he said.
“For pig production, meanwhile, there is no legislation but several years ago the UK industry developed voluntary definitions, with the help of animal welfare bodies, to label different types of outdoor production system. Again, Red Tractor has specific standards to support good practice in each type of system.
“Of course we could go further and invent more label terms for further sub divisions of production systems for different species, but we need to be careful not to cross the line where the plethora of different labels becomes so confusing that it ceases to serve a useful purpose.”