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
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

    £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003