Short of getting to know the particular circumstances of individual farms, and purchasing direct from producers, at farm shops and farmers markets, assurance schemes and labels are often the only way of identifying ‘better’ meat and dairy products.
Currently, there is no label that delivers neatly across all our better meat and dairy principles, although organic comes closest.
Schemes vary considerably in their scope, status and standards. Organic standards, for example, are enshrined with EU Organic Regulation, apply to all EU organic production as well as imports, and cover the whole life of an animal.
Other terms described on labels are less stringent and may only apply to the way an animal is farmed just for part of its life. For example, a beef product marketed as ‘grassfed’ may have come from cattle reared on grass/forage for anything between 51% to 100% of its life, and poultry meat marketed as ‘free-range’ may have come from birds reared indoors for the first half of their lives and provided with freerange access during the latter half of their lives.
Pork products marketed as ‘outdoor-bred’ may have come from a pig that spent the first few weeks until weaning in an outdoor system and was then reared indoors for the remainder of its life. The description ‘free range’ is a broad term and different schemes have different standards.
Currently, there is no label that delivers neatly across all our better meat and dairy principles, although organic comes closest. See Principles for eating meat and dairy more sustainably: the ‘less and better’ approach for a guide to a range a ‘better’ meat and dairy labels.
We have not included baseline quality assurance schemes such as Red Tractor. While Red Tractor provides assurance on traceability and meeting UK standards, these standards generally reflect minimum legal standards rather than offering higher animal welfare or environmental standards.