Animal welfare

“The majority of buyers don’t want to know too much”

Since Red Tractor’s inception in 2000, it has been adopted by all major UK retailers and caterers, as well as many top local brands.

A total of 46,000 farmers are Red Tractor certified, with market penetration representing 82% of UK beef grades, 65% lamp, 95% pork, 95% chicken, 80% turkey, 70% duck and 98% dairy products.

Claiming to be the ‘most recognized and trusted’ food logo in the UK, the program took an interest in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) call for evidence on animal welfare labeling.

At the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum last month, Jim Moseley, CEO of Red Tractor, asked a few questions: How interested are UK consumers in animal welfare? And to what extent is the development of a label covering a multitude of production methods feasible? Have

Do consumers care about animal welfare?Have

To find out how interested UK buyers are in animal welfare, Moseley turned to a consumer study conducted by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

When thinking of a specific meat purchase, the majority of consumers said price was an important factor, followed by appearance and whether the meat product was British or local. Much further down the list comes the standard of wellness.

“We are probably starting from a point … where consumers are not too concerned about animal standards”, Moseley said.

Red Tractor currently has three certification standards, including “Enhanced Welfare” currently available for poultry. GettyImages / chayakorn lotongkum

Digging a little deeper into consumer attitudes, Red Tractor found that buyers largely fall into three categories.

The majority don’t want to know animal welfare standards, Moseley suggested. Considering that “meat is meat, not animals”, these buyers “don’t want to think about it” and “hope all animals are treated well”.

The second largest group is made up of consumers willing to take “simple steps” to support animal welfare initiatives. Buyers in this category are likely to purchase products made under “obvious” initiatives such as free-range eggs. They are largely happy with the choices available, don’t want to spend too much time “thinking about things” and don’t need “details”.

And the smaller category of consumers includes buyers interested in learning more about production methods and welfare standards to help them “make the right choices.” Once convinced, these buyers are ready to pay more, we were told.

Consumer perception and agricultural realityHave

Red Tractor also believes that there is a disparity between consumer perceptions of production methods and the reality on the farm.

“The distance between people’s perception and belief about how a product is produced today, especially on the farm, and the reality of how it is produced, is incredibly large. There is a huge divergence between what people know and what is really going on ”, Red Tractor CEO said.

In a consumer study conducted by Red Tractor in 2020, buyers were asked how the pigs that produce their pork products are raised. The vast majority responded that the pigs were all reared and raised in spacious outdoor areas with access to straw.

These responses are at odds with reality, Moseley suggested, adding that consumers have no idea of ​​conventional production methods such as the use of farrowing cages (metal crates in a pen where pregnant sows are placed. after childbirth). This creates a bit of a dilemma when it comes to labeling animal welfare in pork, he deduced.

“If you start to introduce the concept of, say, a farrowing cage, in order to explain a higher welfare system, they’re absolutely horrified…Have

“Almost any animal welfare labeling on pork is likely to fall short of people’s current expectations for how pigs are raised and raised. “Have

pig farrowing crate cooda64
The consumer “has no idea” of farrowing cages. GettyImages / cooda64

On the other hand, consumers suspect the worst when it comes to poultry farming – notably that chickens are ‘crowded’, raised indoors in cages rather than outdoors, and ‘ re-inflated ”with substances. Although they suspect the worst, according to Red Tractor research, they are currently “avoiding thinking about it.”

An all-in-one approach?Have

Given the breadth of production methods and animal welfare standards currently used in livestock and poultry production, Moseley expressed concern that incorporating them all into a single labeling system is a challenge.

“Developing a label to include all the elements of animal health would be impossible …” Red Tractor CEO said. “It is also very difficult to label when there are so many production methods in the UK… which makes any kind of labeling methodology extremely problematic. “Have

Red Tractor’s solution is to focus on one hundred standards focused on animal health and welfare. These include housing, shelters and handling facilities; breeding and training of personnel; medication use and pain relief; food and water; biosecurity and disease control; as well as husbandry procedures and dead animals.

The labeling system currently has three certifications: “Certified Standards”, “Enhanced Welfare” and “Free Range”. An “organic” label could be considered in the future.

The Red Tractor Certified Standards label is recognized by 77% of primary buyers and approved by 74%, boasts Moseley. And while consumers may not understand “all the details” of the “Improved Welfare” program currently available for poultry, the CEO stressed “they always appreciate it being a step up.” .