Ultimate Guide to Buying Pork at the Supermarket

Subjects: Animal welfare, Ethical pork, Understanding labelling

We surveyed the UK’s top supermarkets and discovered the majority are still selling pork from factory farms in their own-brand fresh pork ranges. So, if you want to shop more ethically when it comes to buying pork in the supermarket, here’s everything you need to know.

All M&S own-brand fresh pork is a minimum of RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred standard. This gives M&S a high minimum welfare standard throughout their own-brand fresh pork. Within their ‘Speciality’ range they stock some free range and organic pork too.

All of Waitrose’s own-brand fresh pork is comes from UK RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred farms as a minimum standard. This gives Waitrose a high minimum welfare standard throughout their own-brand fresh pork range.

All of Co-op’s own-brand fresh pork is sourced from RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred farms. This gives Co-op a high minimum welfare standard throughout their own-brand fresh pork.

Sainsbury’s own-brand fresh pork products are mostly UK Standard or EU Standard, both of which have a low minimum standard of welfare. However, Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ range is RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred, which has a high minimum standard of welfare. So, make sure you seek out the ‘Taste the Difference’ range if buying fresh pork products from Sainsbury’s.

Aldi stocks a lot of EU Standard, UK Standard & Red Tractor own-brand fresh pork, which all have a low minimum welfare standard. Some of Aldi’s ‘Specially Selected’ range of fresh pork is RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred, which has a high minimum welfare standard. So, make sure you seek out the ‘Specially Selected’ range if buying fresh pork products from Aldi – and make sure that product has the RSPCA Assured logo & the words ‘outdoor bred’ on the packaging.

Two thirds of Lidl’s own-brand fresh pork is Red Tractor Assured, which has a low minimum welfare standard. The rest of Lidl’s fresh pork is their ‘Deluxe’ range which is RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred, which has a high minimum welfare standard. So, make sure you seek out the ‘Deluxe’ range if buying fresh pork products from Lidl.

Morrisons own-brand fresh pork products are Red Tractor or EU Standard, both of which have a low minimum welfare standard. Morrisons ‘The Best’ range is no improvement as this is also almost entirely Red Tractor. A very small number of ‘The Best’ cured ham products are RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred, which have a high minimum welfare standard. So, unless you are buying cured ham, it is very difficult to buy high welfare pork in Morrisons.

Tesco stocks Red Tractor, UK Standard and EU Standard own-brand fresh pork products, which all have a low minimum welfare standard. However, all of Tesco’s ‘Finest’ fresh pork range is RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred, which has a high minimum welfare standard. So, make sure you seek out the ‘Finest’ range if buying fresh pork products from Tesco.

Most of Iceland’s own-brand fresh pork is EU Standard, which has low minimum standard of welfare. Iceland’s ‘Luxury’ range is Red Tractor Assured, which also has a low minimum standard of welfare. It is therefore not possible to buy high welfare own-brand fresh pork from Iceland.

The vast majority of ASDA’s own-brand fresh pork is either EU Standard or Red Tractor Assured, which both have a low minimum welfare standard. Asda’s ‘Extra Special’ range is also Red Tractor Assured, which has a low minimum standard of welfare. Over half of ASDA’s fresh pork is imported from Europe. If you are very lucky you may occasionally be able to find a very small selection of Outdoor Bred cuts at the meat counter.

What do the Pork Labels Mean for Pigs?

Organic


Both breeding sows and fattening pigs can roam freely between outdoors and shelter their entire lives. They have access to straw bedded huts for shelter, but are always free to roam and forage for a natural diet. Piglets are weaned no earlier than 40 days, meaning they have much more time with their mothers than in intensive systems. The use of any GM pig feed is banned, this means that the pig feed is likely to be locally supplied and sustainable grown.

NB. The ‘Soil Association Organic Standard’ is one of only a few schemes that chooses to “set it’s standards even higher than the minimum EU organic requirements”.

Free Range


Both breeding sows and fattening pigs can roam freely between outdoors and shelter their entire lives. They have access to straw bedded huts for shelter, but are always free to roam and forage for a natural diet. Piglets are usually weaned at 7-8 weeks. There is no official logo for free range, so look for the words ‘free range’ on the packaging.

RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Reared

Breeding sows are free range meaning that they can roam freely between outdoors and shelter for their whole lives and are never confined in metal cages. Sows have access to large bedded huts that provide shelter and a dry lying area. Sows give birth to their litters outdoors in individual straw-bedded shelters called arcs from which they come and go freely. The fattening pigs are moved indoors into light and airy straw-based systems, rather than intensive systems after weaning (up to ten weeks).

RSPCA Assured & Outdoor Bred


Breeding sows are free range meaning that they can roam freely between outdoors and shelter for their whole lives and are never confined in metal cages. Sows have access to large bedded huts that provide shelter and a dry lying area. Sows give birth to their litters outdoors in individual straw-bedded shelters called arcs from which they come and go freely. The fattening pigs are moved indoors into light and airy straw-based systems, rather than intensive systems after weaning (around four weeks).

RSPCA Assured

rspca-assured-label
The scheme covers both indoor and outdoor rearing systems. Pigs that are permanently indoors have more space to move and are provided with material such as straw to root around in. Breeding sows are never confined in metal cages and are given enough room and straw to build nests. Teeth clipping, nose ringing and tail docking are not permitted except in exceptional circumstances.

Outdoor Reared

Breeding sows are free range meaning that they can roam freely between outdoors and shelter for their whole lives and are never confined in metal cages. Sows have access to large bedded huts that provide shelter and a dry lying area. Sows give birth to their litters outdoors in individual straw-bedded shelters called arcs from which they come and go freely. The piglets are free-range with their mothers until weaning (up to ten weeks), when they are moved indoors. Piglets are likely moved into an intensive system post-weaning unless the RSPCA Assured logo is present as well. There is no official logo for outdoor reared, so look for the words ‘outoor reared‘ on the packaging.

Outdoor Bred


Breeding sows are free range meaning that they can roam freely between outdoors and shelter for their whole lives and are never confined in crates. Sows have access to large bedded huts that provide shelter and a dry lying area. Sows give birth to their litters outdoors in individual straw-bedded shelters called arcs from which they come and go freely. The piglets are free-range with their mothers until weaning (around four weeks), when they are moved indoors. Piglets are likely moved into an intensive system post-weaning unless the RSPCA logo is present as well. There is no official logo for outdoor bred, so look for the words ‘outoor bred‘ on the packaging.

Red Tractor Assured Food Standards

Red Tractor label
There is very little difference between Red Tractor and the legal minimum UK production requirements. It allows for intensive production and is not a ‘guarantee’ of good animal welfare. Breeding sows are confined in metal cages, ‘farrowing crates’, for up to five weeks during each pregnancy cycle and piglets are kept permanently indoors, often on bare concrete or slatted floors. Pigs often suffer from inadequate environmental enrichment, antibiotics overuse, routinely docked tails and routinely clipped teeth.

UK Standard (UK pork with no welfare label)


There is very little difference between UK Standard and the legal minimum EU production requirements, except ‘sow stalls’ are banned. Breeding sows are confined to metal cages, ‘farrowing crates’ for up to 5 weeks during each pregnancy cycle and piglets are kept permanently indoors, often on bare concrete or slatted floors. Pigs often suffer from inadequate environmental enrichment & antibiotics overuse. Routine tail docking and teeth clipping is commonplace. Castration is legal, but not commonplace.

EU Standard (EU pork with no welfare label)


Will almost certainly have come from an intensive factory farm. Breeding sows are kept in ‘sow stalls’ for up to the first four weeks of each pregnancy, then are kept in ‘farrowing crates’ until the piglets are weaned (a further five weeks). Fattening pigs are normally kept permanently indoors on slatted flors with no bedding. Routine tail docking and routine teeth clipping/grinding has been illegal in the EU since 2003, but remains commonplace. Castration is also commonplace.

What Can You do to Help?

We are calling on people to help end factory farming by signing a letter addressed to unethical high street food chain & supermarket CEOs, urging them to only source high welfare pork across their entire own brand ranges.

Find Out More Sign the Petition

One thought on “Ultimate Guide to Buying Pork at the Supermarket

  1. I hate this marketing ploy of “ our door bred” when they are trying to paint a rosy picture. When in fact they are moved to big sheds for intensive weaning and high soya and fish meal based feeds. This happens next door to me and they are on the whole not happy pigs. It’s a big con!

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