You want to feed your family the best quality food you can afford, care about animal welfare and health benefits altogether. You see free-range eggs, red tractor assured meat and organic carrots, but what do these labels mean? Is free-range the best, or should you be looking for RSPCA Assured? Let me give you the facts in this truthful guide to labels and logos.
No logos or symbols
Typically available regular pre-packed food. Large manufacturers, supermarket and high street brands. Generally packs of affordable chicken, beef, burgers and suchlike. Meat, poultry has typically been bred in mass, gone through highly processed production and packing and is accessible for 90% of British households. These are “Quality Standard” labels on lamb and beef and don’t hold any specific symbols on other meat, poultry etc.
It’s the most significant food scheme in the UK. Anything “Red Tractor Assured” means the meat is “safe” and productions is “responsible.” This standard covers some meat, poultry, cereals, dairy and fruit/vegetables. But what do they mean by safe and how do they gauge that? Do you class cramming 38kg of chickens into a square metre, or 20 chickens per square metre responsible? I’m probably going to be controversial here but its only there to market food to the public. British Farming should get support, but the Red Tractor scheme does not outlaw appalling animal welfare standards. It may still be less cruel than bog standard, but it’s not responsible by any means of the word.
Previously called “Freedom Foods” and had five standards they wanted to abide by that applied to each stage of an animal’s life and promise you that they have treated the animal well from birth to slaughter. Not so. They were only “aspirations” and not ideals, nor compulsory. That prompted a name change. RSPCA Assured farms separate piglets from their mothers from 3 weeks compared to natural weaning at 12 weeks. This practice leaves piglets vulnerable to disease. In turn, this increases the use of antibiotics. The most intensive production of pigs used means the sow can get pregnant as soon as possible and maximise profit.
Soil Association Organic
To be able to use this logo on packaging, farmers and manufacturers have to adhere to these principals;
- encouraging biological cycles involving micro-organisms, soil fauna, plants and animals
- sustainable crop rotations
- recycling of nutrients using composted manure and vegetable waste
- cultivation techniques that enhance and protect the soil and its life
- avoiding soluble mineral fertilisers
- avoiding agrochemical pesticides, and
- animal husbandry which meets their physiological, behavioural and health needs
Fundamentally more ethical and healthy. It also covers the food that the animal has eaten, compost and fertiliser the plant has been cultivated in etc. If our food doesn’t have any modification or processing, then our bodies can have more chance to survive the ravages of the modern environment. At least that’s how I see it. The Soil Association has the strictest criteria to adhere. Generally, if it has this symbol, then you can guarantee it is organic from start to finish.
Eggs that are organic have come from hens that have been allowed to roam and feed naturally on the land. They don’t have to live in cramped conditions. They have access to natural light, natural habitat and humane practices. It’s as nature intended. Don’t confuse this with free-range as they are entirely different.
Sounds good but doesn’t mean anything substantial in regards to animal welfare. Beak trimming is still commonplace in “free-range” hens, and their homes are still cramped with nine chickens per square metre. They may have the “chance” to look outside, but that’s if they’re not too traumatised by overcrowding, artificial lighting and high protein food purely to increase egg production. Reality is, less than 10% of hens will step outside the shed in their lifetime. Feed is high in protein crammed with additives and antibiotics. Doesn’t sound as appetising now does it, even though the “media” have tried to brainwash consumers into thinking it’s the most viable option.
See Soil Association above. The best of the best. No chemicals used, no barbaric practices encouraged. Organic hens don’t have their beaks trimmed. They will come from smaller flocks and have more exit holes to the outside ensuring constant outside access. Animal welfare standards are far superior. All organically reared animals receive GM-free food and are encouraged to forage naturally outdoors, meaning they get variety in their diets.
You might spy the term “pastured” when looking for chickens. It’s virtually identical to organic chicken, but rather than being fed just natural grain, they are also free to eat green from the land. Pastured hens have much more space to roam. Generally housed on green areas they have access to a mobile coup rather than being housed in them permanently.
Generally speaking, is the same as pastured. Cows, sheep, goats all graze on the land. Multi-grazing is encouraged for predator control. They eat what they want in the way of plants, grass, insects. Essentially meat raised this way is leaner and contains much higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; healthier for you!
Hopefully, that’s given you the lowdown on what’s behind the labels and logos. Do you think they’re to help the consumer or to confuse? I know when I choose organic, I want it for the health benefits it can provide, and if raising the standards of animal welfare (which evidently the Soil Association are trying to do) then that’s got to be a positive driving force for other associations, isn’t it?
Now you’ve read it, what would your choice be if money wasn’t a deciding factor? Or do you think that it’s more about value for money in the modern world over conditions that animals are housed and treated? What’s important to you and yours?
Let me know your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.
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