Research shows welfare-friendly food labels are confusing

INFORMATION GIVEN about animal welfare on food labels is confusing, according to research carried out by Cardiff University.

An investigation has highlighted the fact that labels across Europe can be based on competing definitions of animal welfare and often reflect different welfare standards.

The study was conducted by Professor Jonathan Murdoch and Dr Emma Roe of the University’s School of City and Regional Planning.

The pair found that welfare-friendly labels can be divided into three broad groups.

There are those with an explicit welfare content, such as ‘Freedom foods’ and those with an implicit welfare component, such as the various organic certification schemes.

The final group is those with a more ambiguous welfare component, such as the various quality labels that appear on food.

But the researchers said that these different labels also reflected different approaches to welfare.

They can range from the scientifically-based approach of ‘Freedom foods’ to the more ecological approach of organic certification schemes.

To complicate matters further, not all high quality, high animal-welfare foods are labelled as such.

The study forms part of a major five-year project on the welfare of cattle, pigs and poultry.

“Animal welfare is of real importance to consumers across Europe,” said Dr Mara Miele, of Cardiff University, a member of the project’s steering committee.

“Nowadays food quality is not only determined by the overall nature and safety of the end product but also by the perceived welfare status of the animals from which the food is produced.”