Meat and eggs served in English hospitals do not meet animal welfare standards expected by the public, research shows.
A survey by the RSPCA and the Campaign for Better Hospital Food revealed most chicken, pork and eggs served come from animals reared in basic welfare conditions.
The findings showed animal welfare standards of hospital food were lower than the standards expected by shoppers in British supermarkets.
Key findings of the questionnaire of every hospital trust in England included:
• Seven out of 10 (71%) eggs served by hospitals are laid by caged hens
• 86% of chicken and 80% of pork served by hospitals are not from farms inspected to meet RSPCA welfare standards
• Eight out of 10 (81%) hospitals don't serve any chicken and seven out of 10 (75%) any pork that meets RSPCA welfare standards
• More than half (56%) don't serve any cage-free eggs
The RSPCA and the Campaign for Better Hospital Food is urging the government to take action and introduce mandatory minimum standards for hospital food in England, to ensure all eggs are cage-free and all chicken and pork meets RSPCA welfare standards.
They noted that more than half of eggs produced in the UK are now cage-free and Sainsbury's, Waitrose, M&S and the Co-operative have banned cage eggs altogether.
David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: "It is strange that just when you are at your weakest, you are served food that may not be to your taste and can be from animals kept under intensive conditions.
"Even hospitals serving food made from free-range eggs in their coffee shops and cafeterias are still delivering food made with cage eggs to patients."
Alex Jackson, coordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: "It's disgraceful for the taxpayer to pay for hospital food that causes misery to animals.
"The government must introduce mandatory higher animal welfare standards for all hospital food in England to improve its quality and taste, and guarantee that it is produced from animals living happy lives."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We want the NHS to serve food for patients that's not only tasty and nutritious, but also sourced ethically. Patients deserve the highest standards and they have the right to expect food that is high quality and healthy.
"Individual hospitals decide where they buy their food from, but we are encouraging them to adopt the government's buying standards for food. They provide clear criteria that encourage environmental sustainability."
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