'Method of Production' labelling on meat could 'mislead' public

The pig sector has urged caution on introducing 'Method of Production' labelling on meat and dairy packets
The pig sector has urged caution on introducing 'Method of Production' labelling on meat and dairy packets

Any attempts to introduce 'Method of Production' labelling on meat and dairy products could potentially “mislead” consumers.

Animal welfare groups are pushing for the introduction of meat and dairy labelling, with specific definitions of how animals were reared.

But any move to apply this to products would be “complex” and could end up “misleading” consumers, according to the National Pig Association (NPA).

The British pig sector already uses an established voluntary Code of Practice which defines several terms related to pig production methods, such as ‘outdoor bred’, ‘outdoor reared’ and ‘free range’. These are widely used by retailers on pork product labels.

NPA senior policy advisor, Georgina Crayford said: “There is already good consistency in the use of production method labels on pork and this information is available for those consumers that are interested.

“The Red Tractor logo is also a useful indication to consumers that the product they are purchasing has been produced in Britain and can be fully traced back to the farm.

“Pig production systems employed in the UK are highly diverse and difficult to categorise into simple terms. For example, a pig may be born outside and then reared in different types of indoor accommodation at different stages.”

Ms Crayford said: “Similarly, much of the pork from a pig reared as free range or outdoor bred/reared is sold as conventionally reared pork at a standard price. It would be very difficult to design a clear label in these cases.

“There is also likely to be significant cost involved in ensuring pork, especially when used as an ingredient within other products, is labelled accurately and in a meaningful way, which would inevitably be passed on to both consumers and producers,” she added.

The NPA says that whilst its important to point out that terms related to production method can be useful for giving an indication of how an animal has been reared, they should not be “used as a proxy” for animal welfare.

All pig farms, big or small, indoor or outdoor, can achieve good health and welfare outcomes, depending on how they are managed, Ms Crayford said.

The NPA believes it would be better to focus on improving awareness of existing labels, before looking at extending further labelling requirements through law.