#TurnYourNoseUp

Understanding labelling

The message is simple; use the power of your purse to buy from real farms, not animal factories.

If there’s no animal welfare label on the pork, don’t buy it! It’s that easy.

You can buy pork with high animal welfare labels in the supermarket, so look for RSPCA Assured (previously labelled Freedom Food), Outdoor Bred, Free Range or best of all Organic. Pork with these labels has been raised on high welfare farms, almost certainly in the UK, which means the animals have not been given routine doses of antibiotics. You can also ask for high welfare at your local butcher, or better still shop at your local farmers’ market, find high welfare online, or join a box scheme. If you’re eating out, ask if the meat is from a high welfare farm.

Common supermarket labels

  • Organic

    organic

    Organic
    5-stars

    Organic pigs are kept in conditions that, as far as possible, allow them to express their natural behaviour. The use of the European Union Organic logo is mandatory for all pre-packaged organic products that have been produced in any EU Member State. The Soil Association Organic Standard is one of only a few schemes that chooses to “set it’s standards even higher than the EU organic standard”. There are 8 other approved UK organic certification bodies.

  • Free range

    Label-freerange

    Free range
    4-stars

    These pigs are born outside, in fields and they remain outside until they are sent for slaughter. They are provided with food, water and shelter and are free to roam within defined boundaries. Free range pigs have very generous minimum space allowances, which are worked out according to the soil conditions and rotation practices of the farm. Breeding sows are also kept outside, in fields for their productive life.

  • Outdoor bred

    Label-outdoor

    Outdoor bred
    3-stars

    These pigs are born outside, in fields where they are kept until weaning (normally around 4 weeks) and moved indoors. Breeding sows are kept outside in fields for their productive lives. The pigs are provided with food, water and shelter with generous minimum space allowances. ‘Outdoor reared’ is a similar system, but the piglets usually have access to the outdoors for up to 10 weeks before being moved indoors.

  • RSPCA Assured

    RSPCA assured

    RSPCA Assured
    3-stars

    Freedom Food labelRSPCA Assured (previously called Freedom Food) is the RSPCA’s labelling and assurance scheme dedicated to improving welfare standards for farm animals.

    About 30% of pigs reared in the UK are reared under this label. The RSPCA assesses farms to strict welfare standards and if they meet every standard they can use the RSPCA Assured label on their product. The scheme covers both indoor and outdoor rearing systems and ensures that greater space and bedding material are provided.

    For more information visit: www.rspcaassured.org.uk

  • Red Tractor

    label-redtractor-o

    Red Tractor
    2-stars

    The Red Tractor Assured Food Standards scheme only assures UK consumers that meat products comply with UK minimum legal requirements. 80% of British pork farms unite under this label, so although the scheme will include farms using a wide range of production methods, the label is in no way a guarantee of good animal welfare and allows intensive production. In 2012, advertisements falsely claiming that British pork sold with the Red Tractor label were “high welfare” had to be banned after several complaints. The Red Tractor logo used in conjunction with a Union Jack only guarantees that the pork is British.

    For more information visit: www.redtractor.org.uk

  • No welfare label

    label-nolabel

    No welfare label
    0-stars

    If there is no welfare label, don’t buy it. Pork with no welfare label is most likely to have come from factory pig farms. These farms cram animals into unhealthy, overcrowded sheds where diseases spread quickly. Pigs have to be routinely dosed with antibiotics just to keep them alive.

Detailed comparison chart

SA Organicsa_organic_black5-stars EU Organiceu_organic5-stars Free rangeLabel-freerange4-stars Outdoor bredLabel-outdoor3-stars RSPCA AssuredRSPCA assured3-stars Red Tractorlabel-redtractor-o2-stars No labellabel-nolabel0-stars
Housing
labelling-housing
Pigs can roam freely between outdoors and shelter Pigs can roam freely between outdoors and shelter. Fattening pigs may be housed for final 20% lifetime (for a maximum period of 3 months) Pigs can roam freely between outdoors and shelter Sows can roam between outdoors and shelter. Piglets are fattened indoors after weaning Pigs may be kept permanently indoors but with enhanced space allowances. Fully slatted floors not permitted Pigs often kept permanently indoors on bare concrete slats. Sow stalls not allowed Pigs mostly kept permanently indoors on bare concrete slats.
Bedding
labelling-bedding
Shelters or barns must have adequate bedding Shelters or barns must have adequate bedding Shelters or barns must have adequate bedding Shelters or barns must have adequate bedding Straw or similar bedding must be provided, verified by regular RSPCA inspections Pigs often kept with no straw or other bedding Pigs often kept with no straw or other bedding
Antibiotics
labelling-antibiotics
Permitted to treat illness, but very rarely required, long withdrawal period before slaughter Permitted to treat illness, but very rarely required, long withdrawal period before slaughter Permitted to treat illness, but very rarely required Rarely required for sows, piglets usually given antibiotics after weaning Provision of bedding and extra space means pigs are healthier and require less antibiotics Routine over-use of antibiotics widespread Routine over-use of antibiotics widespread
Farrowing crates
labelling-farrowing
Not permitted Not permitted Not used Not used Not permitted Sows can be confined to narrow steel farrowing crates, unable to turn around for 5 weeks in each farrowing cycle Sows can be confined to narrow steel sow stalls & farrowing crates, unable to turn around for 5 weeks in each farrowing cycle
Nesting
labelling-nesting
Sows can roam, root, socialise and nest according to their natural instincts Sows can roam, root, socialise and nest according to their natural instincts Sows can roam, root, socialise and nest according to their natural instincts Sows can roam, root, socialise and nest according to their natural instincts Sows must be given adequate amounts of straw or similar material Pigs commonly kept with no or ineffective environmental enrichment Pigs commonly kept with no or ineffective environmental enrichment
Tail docking
labelling-taildocking
Not permitted Not permitted Not necessary because pigs kept outdoors are not stressed and do not bite each other’s tails Not necessary because sows kept outdoors are not stressed and do not bite each other’s tails. Pigs fattened indoors often routinely tail docked (illegal) Permitted with permission from RSPCA, and only if the causes of tail biting are addressed Widespread routine (illegal) tail docking Widespread routine (illegal) tail docking
Feed
labelling-gmfeed
No GM feed allowed. Locally grown feed encouraged No GM feed allowed. Locally grown feed encouraged GM feed allowed GM feed allowed GM feed allowed GM feed allowed GM feed allowed
Feeding space
labelling-feedingspace
Feed spread outdoors or in troughs Feed spread outdoors or in troughs Feed spread outdoors or in troughs Feed spread outdoors or in troughs Enhanced space allowances UK legal minimum EU legal minimum
Weaning
labelling-weaning
No earlier than 40 days No earlier than 40 days Usually later weaning, up to 42-56 days No earlier than 21 days No earlier than 21 days No earlier than 21 days No earlier than 21 days
This is where we draw our bottom line

Download the labelling comparison chart

Questions to ask retailers



local-butcher


Much of the best meat comes from independent retailers, butchers and farmers’ markets. Meat from these sources is not always labelled and the best way to find out where it came from and how it was produced is to talk to the person you are buying it from.

Download and print our full list of questions to ask retailers

Here are three key questions to ask when buying pork with no clear labelling:


Retailers should ideally know which farm the meat they are selling has come from, or at least which supplier it came from so that you are able to contact the producer.
Organic, Free Range, outdoor bred or RSPCA Assured. Not all farms will have been certified to any of these standards, but may still produce high welfare pork. Retailers should know the conditions in which the pigs have been raised, which you can cross-reference with the labelling information above.
Antibiotics should only be used in essential cases, in other words if the pig is ill and in need of medicine. They should not be used to encourage growth, or simply to keep pigs ‘healthy’.


Online resources


Consumers can also find high welfare pork at farmers’ markets and butchers who can vouch for the origin of the meat. Buying in this fully transparent way ensures that the pig has not been suffering in an animal factory, that you are paying a fair price and that your money stays in the locality, thus helping to preserve farming skills and vibrant rural communities.

You can find farmers’ markets, local butchers and other high welfare retailers by using our high welfare pork directory, as well as these useful websites:

  • pork directory
    High Welfare Pork Directory
    Our very own directory of farms, restaurants, shops & markets helping you find pork that you can trust.
  • find-foodtrade2
    Food Trade
    Grow, buy, sell & share on our global food network. Join FoodTrade to tell the world where & what you want to eat.
  • find-bigbarn2
    Big Barn
    BigBarn is a Community Interest Company committed to reversing the anti-social trend of the UK food industry.
  • find-localfoodadvisor
    Local Food Advisor
    A list of the top 4000 award winning local producers, Food Markets, Farmers Markets and Farm shops – all of whom have won major UK awards, certifications and recommendations.
  • find-localfoods
    Local Foods
    Find local foods from farmers and producers who have decided to cut out the middle-men and sell direct to you.
  • find-fixantibiotics
    Fix Antibiotics
    Meat raised without antibiotics at farms, farmers markets, eateries, and retailers across the country.

  • Proper Snap
    Find your nearest local, independently-produced or artisan food & drink.