Defra sets out plans for ‘method of production’ food labelling

Clearer food labelling for consumers – including information on the method of production and the county of origin – is on the cards, as part of Defra’s food strategy.

Further details are contained in a new UK-wide consultation, launched on Tuesday (12 March) which sets out plans for a mandatory “method of production” labelling system for pork, chicken and eggs.

See also: Clearer labelling to help consumers ‘buy British’

This would include a “five-tier” labelling approach, for both domestic and imported products, to indicate their relative animal welfare values.

For example, the first tier would show if the product was below the UK regulatory baseline, while the second tier would show that it meets that baseline. Three higher tiers would then indicate the extent to which a product exceeds basic UK welfare standards.

Country of origin

The consultation also considers how to improve country-of-origin labelling for certain goods, including how and where this information is displayed, what products should be included, and the use of flags.

For example, if imported pork is cured in the UK and features a Union Jack, the aim is to find ways to make it more obvious to consumers that the pig was reared abroad – such as increasing the size of the country-of-origin text, or placing it on the front of the packet.

Defra farming minister Mark Spencer said:  “British farmers are rightly celebrated for their world-leading standards, and they should be properly rewarded for their hard work to maintain these standards.

“We know that consumers care about where their food comes from. Through clearer labelling, we can make it easier for them to support our farmers.”


The industry has given a guarded welcome to the latest plans.

NFU deputy president David Exwood said there was a clear need for better labelling to enable consumers to make a more informed choice.

“However, labelling on its own is not the answer to safeguarding our own high standards from imports that are produced under conditions that would be illegal in the UK,” he added.

“That is why one of our asks in our election manifesto calls on the next government to enshrine a set of core environmental and animal welfare standards in law for all agri-food imports.”

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said the principle of greater transparency and clearer labelling “to differentiate high-quality British product from inferior imports” has merit. But questions remain with regards to the method of production labelling proposals.

“We will need to see the full details, but it has to be meaningful for consumers and it could be very difficult to do this reliably for pigs, given that different parts of the carcass can go into many different markets.

“We need to avoid falling into the trap of claiming one system is automatically better than another – method of production is not an indication of good or poor welfare.”

The consultation, which also seeks views on whether the new labelling should extend to dairy, beef and sheep, and be included on menus in cafes and restaurants, will run for eight weeks, until 7 May 2024.

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