Understanding labelling The message is simple; use the power of your purse to buy from real farms, not animal factories. You can buy pork with high animal welfare labels in the supermarket, so look for Outdoor Bred, RSPCA Assured, Free Range or best of all Organic. Pork with these labels has been raised on high welfare farms, almost certainly in the UK. 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 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 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. RSPCA Assured ‘RSPCA Assured‘ 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. Outdoor bred 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. Red Tractor The Red Tractor Assured Food Standards scheme only assures UK consumers that meat products comply with UK minimum legal requirements. It is not a guarantee of good animal welfare and allows intensive production. The Red Tractor logo used in conjunction with a Union Jack only guarantees that the pork is British. In 2012, advertisements falsely claiming that British pork sold with the Red Tractor label were “high welfare” were banned by the ASA due to being misleading. No welfare label 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. Labelling comparison chart SA Organic EU Organic Free range RSPCA Assured Outdoor bred Red Tractor No label 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 Pigs may be kept permanently indoors but with enhanced space allowances. Fully slatted floors not permitted Sows can roam between outdoors and shelter. Piglets are fattened indoors after weaning Pigs often kept permanently indoors on bare concrete slats. Sow stalls not allowed Pigs mostly kept permanently indoors on bare concrete slats. 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 Shelters or barns must have adequate bedding Pigs often kept with no straw or other bedding Pigs often kept with no straw or other bedding 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 Provision of bedding and extra space means pigs are healthier and require less antibiotics Rarely required for sows, piglets usually given antibiotics after weaning Routine over-use of antibiotics widespread Routine over-use of antibiotics widespread Farrowing crates Not permitted Not permitted Not used Not permitted Not used 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 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 Sows can roam, root, socialise and nest according to their natural instincts Pigs commonly kept with no or ineffective environmental enrichment Pigs commonly kept with no or ineffective environmental enrichment Tail docking Not permitted Not permitted Not necessary because pigs kept outdoors are not stressed and do not bite each other’s tails Permitted with permission from RSPCA, and only if the causes of tail biting are addressed 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) Widespread routine (illegal) tail docking Widespread routine (illegal) tail docking Feed 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 Feed spread outdoors or in troughs Feed spread outdoors or in troughs Feed spread outdoors or in troughs Enhanced space allowances Feed spread outdoors or in troughs UK legal minimum EU legal minimum 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… and put it on your fridge! What if two or more labels are used side by side? Two or more labels used together means the farm must adhere to the minimum welfare standards of each label represented. For example, a pork product displaying both Soil Association Organic and RSPCA Assured logos, would adhere to a minimum of Soil Association Organic welfare standards as these are higher than those of the RSPCA Assured scheme. What if I can’t find any of these labels? Then request better pork! Download, print and drop off this supermarket request letter with your local store managers, asking them to carry products from high welfare farms. Don’t give up until they respond to you! Download a supermarket request letter Questions to ask retailers 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: 1. Do you know where this meat came from – ideally the farm where it was raised? 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. 2. What standards are the pigs raised to? 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. 3. How often are antibiotics used, and in what circumstances? 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 Find farmers’ markets, local butchers and other high welfare retailers by using our high welfare pork directory, as well as these useful websites: High Welfare Pork Directory Our very own directory of farms, restaurants, shops & markets helping you find pork that you can trust. Big Barn BigBarn is a Community Interest Company committed to reversing the anti-social trend of the UK food industry. 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. Proper Snap Find your nearest local, independently-produced or artisan food & drink.