Cutting through the confusion of food labels

Press release - 2 March 2012

During this week's BBC Countryfile programme (Sunday 4 March 2012, 7pm) John Craven investigates animal welfare labelling. Helen Browning of Soil Association, Philip Lymbery of Compassion in World Farming, and Julia Wrathall of RSPCA will discuss the existing farm assurance labelling schemes used on our food and what they really mean in terms of animal welfare.

When it comes to animal welfare, food labelling is confusing. All too often, meat products are labelled with terms like 'farm fresh' or bear pictures of animals in fields. These labels don't indicate how the food was produced and, with 80% of the EU's farm animals reared on intensive farms, often these labels are misleading. Describing the method of production for each animal product clearly indicates the quality of life they are likely to have experienced.

Recognising the existence of this problem in the marketplace, a coalition consisting of Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA, Soil Association and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has started work on a new campaign that will call for clear, honest labelling of the method of production on all meat and dairy products across Europe.

Philip Lymbery, Compassion in World Farming's CEO says: "Consumers want to know how the animals used to produce their food have lived. However, opinion polls tell us time and again that they feel there is a lack of transparency in the market place around farming methods and that many existing labels are unclear and can be misleading. We want labelling that will help shoppers know how their meat and milk has been produced. We want to see transparent, honest labelling across Europe for all meat and milk products by law."

Julia Wrathall, Head of Farm Animal Science at RSPCA says: "We encourage shoppers to look carefully at the labels on all animal products they buy and think about how the animals were produced. For example, in the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme, all members - including farms, hauliers and abattoirs - have to apply the RSPCA's strict welfare standards".

Helen Browning, Chief Executive of the Soil Association says: "People deserve clear information about the animals that produce their food - including the way in which they are kept and what this means for the kind of life that they lead. The Soil Association's organic label ensures a free range life and approach to animal husbandry that allows our farmed animals the maximum opportunity to express their natural behaviours. We think that all labels should be as clear in saying what they stand for".

The coalition is looking forward to officially launching the campaign later this year. To find out more visit


Notes to Editors
1. Compassion in World Farming was founded over 40 years ago in 1967 by a British farmer who became horrified by the development of modern, intensive factory farming. Today we campaign peacefully to end all cruel factory farming practices. We believe that the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet deserves a focused, specialised approach – so we only work on farm animal welfare.
2. The RSPCA has developed detailed welfare standards for all the major farmed species covering every stage and all aspects of the animals lives. All members of the RSPCA's higher welfare farm assurance scheme, Freedom Food, are required to apply all the standards relevant to their species on farm, during transport and at the abattoir. All animal products bearing the FF logo have come from farms inspected to the RSPCA's welfare standards
3. The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by farmers, scientists, doctors and nutritionists to promote the connection between the health of the soil, food, people and the environment. Today the Soil Association is the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.