A market based primarily on volume production presents challenges for the farming industry. Competing on price alone is forcing many farm businesses to close. Instead we should expand the welfare quality market at home, and help build robust export brands based on these values. Good farm animal welfare should be a central to the quality-based growth.
Method of production labelling has proved itself to be an important tool for driving standards, and an excellent opportunity for farmers to add-value to their products. When these labels are underpinned by independent assurance schemes, they also help enforce animal health and welfare rules, improving bio-security.
Despite enlightened action by the EU on the labelling of eggs, and the remarkable success of the UK pig labelling scheme, the approach has not been replicated for other farm species, such as broilers, sheep, or beef and dairy cattle.
It's particularly difficult for consumers to drive standards in dairy production as most milk is pooled making it impossible to distinguish milk and cheese from permanently housed or seasonally grazed herds. However, the success of the organic sector, and discussions with retailers, have shown that differentiation is possible.
Labels drive demand, and add value. They're the only real tool consumers have to communicate their preference for higher-welfare products to producers.
A small change
We view mandatory method of production labelling as a simple measure to enhance transparency in the marketplace, which will help increase marketplace opportunities for farmers and has the potential to deliver significant growth across all higher welfare meat and dairy product areas. In addition to aiding growth, labelling will also help governments deliver their objective of market-driven improvements in farm animal welfare.
Mandatory method of production labelling will increase producer confidence in the market for higher welfare meat and dairy products, incentivising new entrants, and stimulating further improvements, and innovation.