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
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own