We are calling for mandatory method of production labelling of all meat and dairy products because this is the best way to level the playing field for higher welfare products and allow this important market to grow. By providing consumers with accurate farm system labelling we can help safeguard the future of British farming.
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 Britain should expand the welfare quality market at home, and help build a robust brand based on these values.
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.
Mandatory method of production labelling has been in place for shell eggs since 2004, and the UK pig industry adopted voluntary method of production labels in 2010. Despite this enlightened action by the pig industry, and the remarkable success of the scheme, the approach has not been replicated for other UK farm species. It's particularly difficult for consumers to drive standards in UK dairy production as most milk is pooled making it impossible to distinguish milk and cheese from permanently housed or seasonally grazed herds.
We are calling on government to take the lead in providing certainty for higher welfare farmers though a clear, honest framework of method of production labelling. Where method of production labelling exists, as it does for shell eggs and UK pork, it is popular with farmers and with consumers. Labelling has meant that consumers can identify higher welfare products, allowing this higher value market to expand, and as a result many farmers have taken the chance to grow their businesses. Farmers producing chicken, beef and dairy should have the same opportunities to grow their businesses.
Labels drive demand, and add value. They're the only real tool that we consumers have to communicate our preference for higher-welfare products to producers. Labels empower citizens to drive standards more effectively and to reward farmers who invest in better farm animal welfare.