Free-range farmer tours Europe in a chicken suit, calling for honest labelling

From August 1st, Devon broiler farmer’s daughter, Tamsin French, will dress as a chicken called ‘Rosa’, and embark on a 39-day tour of the European Union.  The 39Days4Rosa tour will take in 21 EU Member States and finish at the European Parliament in Brussels on September 8th.  ‘Rosa’ is calling for clear, mandatory method of production labelling of poultrymeat.  She wants consumers to be able to answer the simple question, 'How was this chicken kept?'  Her tour can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

Thirty-nine days is the average lifespan of an intensively farmed meat chicken.  Around 90% of meat chickens reared in the EU are from intensive indoor systems.  These chickens have little or no opportunity to display natural behaviours.

Ms French said “Our free range chickens live for fifty-six days, and from the moment they’re old enough to go outside they can range through tree covered, landscaped fields where they can express natural habitual behaviour.  It’s important that consumers can accurately and easily identify the farm system used to rear their chickenmeat.  The labelling term ‘free range’ accurately reflects the life of our free range chickens.”

The European Commission is reviewing poultrymeat labelling this summer – ‘Rosa’ wants them to deliver honest, mandatory labelling for European consumers. Research shows that Rosa’s mission is supported by most people in Europe. 1  Eight out of ten European Union consumers support mandatory method of production labelling of poultrymeat.

Ms French’s family farms in Devon and their 22,000 strong free-range broiler flock is assured by the RSPCA and Farm Assured Standards. They are part of a farmers co-operative, which supplies chickenmeat to superstores across the UK. She will be joined by two colleagues: Johanna Olsson, an Animal Science student from Berkshire, and Sam White, an animal welfare campaigner from Essex.

Ms French said, “Method of production labelling already exists for shell eggs.  It means consumers can tell which farm system was used to produce the eggs they buy and has been an important factor in driving the dramatic increase in the number of cage-free egg-laying hens across Europe. 2

“The European Commission has recognised that mandatory labelling has also given producers the opportunity to differentiate on price and earn a better, fairer living. I want to see this type of labelling extended to chickenmeat – because clear, comparable, point of sale information is very important if higher welfare markets to grow.”

Many meat and dairy labels in the EU use confusing language and images that suggest animals are kept in extensive, spacious, ‘natural’ conditions even when the animals have been reared in standard intensive systems.  Mandatory labelling will help ensure a level playing field for higher welfare producers.

In 2012, the European Commission promised consumers better information about farm animal welfare.  Mandatory labelling of poultrymeat would deliver this, and requires just one simple rule change. 3

39Days4Rosa is part of the Labelling Matters campaign, which is run in partnership by Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA, Soil Association, and World Animal Protection. The campaign is strongly supported by Eurogroup for Animals and now represents over 9 million EU consumers.

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For more information, please contact:
•    Jon Bennett, Head of Media, Compassion in World Farming – Direct dial: 01483 521 952  Mobile: 07584 683 485  E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Social media links:
•    https://twitter.com/39days4rosa
•    https://www.facebook.com/39Days4Rosa

Notes to editors:
•    Rosa’s tour started in London, UK, on August 1st.  It will end in Brussels, Belgium, on September 8th.  Rosa will also visit The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain, and France.
•    39Days4Rosa is part of the Labelling Matters campaign – a partnership project of Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA, Soil Association, and World Animal Protection.  Labelling Matters is strongly supported by Eurogroup for Animals.
•    Rosa’s gruelling 39 day tour can be followed on Twitter (@39Days4Rosa, #39Days4Rosa) and YouTube (39Days4Rosa).  
•    Images and video are available.

•    Tamsin French, aged 23, is a free range chicken farmer.  She holds a first class honours degree in Environmental Geography.  She was Vice President of her university Environment Society, and has volunteered at Friends of the Earth.
•    Johanna Olsson, aged 22, is studying for a BSc in Animal Science.  
•    Sam White, aged 24, studied Fine Art and English.  

Notes from the release:
1. Qa Research, 2013. Method of production labelling of meat and dairy products research – Report for Labelling Matters. www.labellingmatters.org.

2. Commission figures show the proportion of cage-free egg-laying hens in Europe rose from 19.7% in 2003 to 42.2% in 2012 (European Commission, 2013. Laying hens by way of keeping. CIRCABC).  In the UK alone, cage-free egg production rose from 31% in 2003 to 51% in 2012 (Defra, 2013. Quarterly UK Egg Packing Station Survey). Research in the UK, France and Czech Republic in 2013 found an average of 59% recognition rate for  EU egg scheme – with 65% finding it helpful (Qa Research, 2013. Method of production labelling of meat and dairy products research – Report for Labelling Matters. www.labellingmatters.org).

3. EU law (Commission Regulation 543/2008) on marketing standards for poultrymeat already defines methods of production for free range and extensive indoor chickens.  This Regulation, in force since 1991, sets out the standards that must be reached if retailers wish to label chicken ‘free range” or ‘extensive indoors’.  It should be relatively straight-forward to change these labelling terms from voluntary to mandatory and to add a requirement that meat from chickens reared intensively indoors must be labelled ‘intensive indoors’.