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
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links