28 January 2015 | Online since 2003



Hospital food welfare 'shocking' says survey


Eggs, chicken and pork served in English hospitals are produced from animals reared in only basic welfare conditions, according to a survey published by the RSPCA.

The survey of every hospital Trust in England found that approximately 7 out of 10 eggs served by English hospitals are from hens kept in cages, and approximately 80% of chicken and pork is from animals reared in conditions that do not meet RSPCA welfare standards.

It also found that there is a big regional variation in the animal welfare standard of hospital food in England.

The survey urged the government to introduce mandatory minimum standards for the food, including cage-free eggs.

7 out of 10 (71%) eggs served by hospitals are laid by caged hens and 86% of chicken and 80% of pork served by hospitals is not from farms inspected to meet RSPCA welfare standards.

The survey results show that the animal welfare standard of hospital food is lower than the standards demanded by shoppers in British supermarkets.

With animal welfare becoming an increasingly important consideration for consumers, more than half of eggs produced in the UK are now cage-free, and Sainsbury's, Waitrose, M&S and the Co-operative have banned cage eggs altogether.

Freedom Food certification ensures that food is produced from animals on farms which are inspected to meet strict RSPCA welfare standards, covering all aspects of their lives.

Despite pressure on hospital budgets, supermarket figures show that Freedom Food labelled food does not always cost more.

For example, Freedom Food barn eggs from Sainsbury's cost the same as cage eggs from Tesco and ASDA and Sainsbury's Freedom Food chicken thighs and drumsticks are £1.22p per kilogram cheaper than Sainsbury's chicken and thighs which don't meet any animal welfare standards at all.

8 out of 10 (81%) hospitals don't serve any chicken which meets RSPCA welfare standards, more than 7 out of 10 (75%) don't serve any pork which meets RSPCA welfare standards and more than half (56%) don't serve ANY cage-free eggs.

The survey results show that the animal welfare standard of hospital food is lower than the standards demanded by shoppers in British supermarkets.

With animal welfare becoming an increasingly important consideration for consumers, more than half of eggs produced in the UK are now cage-free, and Sainsbury's, Waitrose, M&S and the Co-operative have banned cage eggs altogether.

When surveyed 7 out of 10 (69%) people agreed that the welfare of animals bred for meat, eggs and dairy should not be compromised in order to produce cheap hospital food.

David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, said: "It is strange that just when you are at your weakest, you are served food that may not be to your taste and can be from animals kept under intensive conditions."

"Even hospitals serving food made from free range eggs in their coffee shops and cafeterias are still delivering food made with cage eggs to patients. We support the idea of having standards for hospital food".

Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: "It's disgraceful for the taxpayer to pay for hospital food which causes misery to animals. The government must introduce mandatory higher animal welfare standards for all hospital food in England to improve its quality and taste, and guarantee that it is produced from animals living happy lives".

James Varghese, Catering Manager at Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: "The Royal Brompton uses approximately 75,000 free range eggs per year. The price is very competitive and well within our budget constraints."

"All our sausages and cooked ham joints are from farms in Essex which operate to very high standards of animal welfare. Every NHS trust spends hard-earned taxpayers money and we want to make sure we are giving patients, staff and relatives food that is both nutritious and which meets high standards of animal welfare."

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Comments


20-11-2012 10:22 AM | Posted by: A. Scientist
There is no evidence that the welfare of hens kept in cages is worse than those kept on free-range. On the contrary at least 5 recent scientific review and papers have found the welfare to be on average better. Mortality rates are less than half for hens in cages plus their eggs are likely to be cleaner and the birds are much less likely to suffer from parasitic diseases. Hence hositals ought to use cage eggs in preference to free range unless they are sure the free-range eggs come from farms with much better than average performance. The RSPCA is misleading ministers and the public with this campaign that is not evidence-based, just emotive. However I agree with them regarding meat. There is good evidence that welfare is improved with higher than legal minimum standards for pigs and cattle.

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