The 'good food' stamp barely worth the label it's printed on

Red Tractor logo no guarantee of animal standards, report claims

Britain's largest food label, the Red Tractor, lays down the lowest animal welfare standards of any quality mark, and shoppers should look for kinder schemes, according to new research.

A 60-page report into assurance schemes in the UK found that Red Tractor, officially known as "Assured Food Standards", did little more than meet legal requirements – and allowed practices such as the docking of pigs' tails without anaesthetic. Instead, the two charities behind the report, Compassion in World Farming and OneKind, advised consumers to buy meat carrying the RSPCA or Soil Association logos.

The report, Farm Assurance Scheme and Animal Welfare, carried out an in-depth assessment of Red Tractor, British Lion Mark, RSPCA Freedom Food and Soil Association schemes, as well as Quality Meat Scotland and the Scottish Organic Producers Association.

Launched in 2000 and carried on £12bn worth of food annually, the Assured Food Standards logo guarantees basic British standards, which are higher than imports from some countries with lower welfare legislation.

But it scored "poorly" in the study because it allowed (among other things) mutilations of pigs, tethering of sheep and cattle, zero-grazing of dairy cows, and genetically modified or cloned animals and their offspring. It also generally provided less space and comfort than rival marks.

The report concluded: "The standards offer few welfare benefits compared with standard industry practice and generally only ensure compliance with minimum legislative standards – the interpretation of which is considered inadequate in some cases."

Soil Association meat had the highest standards for all eight livestock categories – pigs, dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, broiler chickens, turkeys, laying hens and farmed salmon – with RSPCA Freedom Food in second place.

Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, said: "When shopping for meat, milk and eggs from animals kept to higher welfare standards, it's best to look for free range, organic or Freedom Food."

Assured Food Standards said the report largely ignored that some meat was not approved by any scheme and that its Red Tractor also guaranteed food safety, environmental protection and traceability.

Its chief executive, David Clarke, said: "We believe this a very poor report. It is biased and inaccurate and several statements are just plain wrong. Crucially, they have no regard for the cost of production and what consumers can afford."

An RSPCA statement said: "We are astounded to see Freedom Food described as 'factory farming'. While there is no agreed definition of this term it is generally used to as a pejorative term to describe intensive farming practices which cause welfare problems and stop animals carrying out their natural behaviour.

"The RSPCA farm animal welfare standards are specifically focused on avoiding these situations. Our standards strictly prohibit intensive farming. We firmly believe that if you want to help farm animals, Freedom Food is the best scheme in Britain to support.

"Freedom Food has been recognised by the EU funded 'Welfare Quality Project' as the only assurance scheme dedicated to farm animal welfare in Europe.  It was also recognised by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) as a 'higher level' scheme."

Food labels: Which can you trust?

Red Tractor

Guarantees food is British and legal, but little else. Allows tail-docking and teeth-grinding of pigs, zero-grazing of dairy cows, long journeys to slaughter, and cramming of chickens into sheds – allowing them little room to express natural behaviour. Independent's rating: 2/10

Lion Mark

Means that eggs are produced to minimum legal requirements. Free-range hens can range outdoors, but standard eggs are from hens kept indoors in cages, with little room to forage, dust-bathe or perch. Our rating: 2/10 (for standard eggs)

RSPCA Freedom Food

Higher standard of factory-farming, with ban on zero-grazing, more enrichment and limit of six hours for live transport of most species, but still far from perfect. Kinder than Red Tractor and cheaper than organic. Our rating: 5/10

Soil Association

Gold standard for animal welfare – with bans on breeds which place unfair burdens on animals, more space, and close monitoring of stunning and slaughter process. Much less cruel than Red Tractor meat, but also much more expensive. Our rating: 9/10

Suggested Topics
Voices
A downbeat David Moyes looks for answers during Manchester United's 2-0 loss at Everton
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
Arts & Entertainment
With Jo Joyner in 'Trying Again'
tvHe talks to Alice Jones on swapping politics for pillow talk
VIDEO
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
Arts & Entertainment
tvJudge for yourself
Life & Style
tech
Life & Style
Tough call: is the psychological distress Trott is suffering an illness? (Getty)
healthJonathan Trott and the problems of describing mental illness
Life & Style
23 April 2014: Google marks St George's Day with a drawing depicting England's patron saint slaying a fire-breathing dragon
tech
Life & Style
On the dogwalk: a poodle on the runway during a Mulberry show in London
fashionThe duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
News
peopleEmma Appleton says photographer said he would shoot her for magazine if she slept with him
Extras
indybest
News
peopleRevealed: Goop.com's losses - and the pay rises
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

    It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

    Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
    Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

    Migrants in Britain a decade on

    They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

    The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
    Why musicians play into their old age

    Why musicians play into their old age

    Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
    How can you tell a gentleman?

    How can you tell a gentleman?

    A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

    The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

    Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
    Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

    Sam Wallace

    Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

    Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
    Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

    Through the screen

    British Pathé opens its archives
    The man behind the papier mâché mask

    Frank Sidebottom

    The man behind the papier mâché mask
    Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

    Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
    Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

    Boston runs again

    Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
    40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

    40 years of fostering and holding the babies

    In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents