Oxford 2024: Clearer labelling to help consumers ‘buy British’

Clearer retail labelling, to help distinguish high welfare, environment-friendly British food from substandard imports is on the cards, with Defra planning to consult on the matter.

The government is also promising to do more to help online shoppers seek out British produce, for example by encouraging retailers to set up “Buy British” buttons on their websites.

Supermarket Morrisons recently became the first UK retailer to offer this facility, and Defra secretary Steve Barclay is hoping others will follow suit.

See also: Defra to unveil new SFI actions at Oxford conferences

Mr Barclay will spell out his specific plans when he addresses the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday morning (4 January).

He is expected to say that current labelling of food is unfair, leaving both farmers and consumers exposed to potentially misleading information.

“British farmers take pride in producing food that meets, and often exceeds, our world-leading animal welfare and environmental standards,” he will say.

“British consumers want to buy this top-quality food, but too often products produced to lower standards overseas aren’t clearly labelled to differentiate them.”

Examples of this might include pork from systems where producers still use sow crates and tail docking, or eggs produced in barren cages – outlawed in the UK since 2012.

Greater access

As well as food labelling, the Defra secretary is also expected to use his speech to outline a new approach to encouraging greater public access to the English countryside.

This will include additional support for farmers and landowners who create, maintain and upgrade permissive footpaths, cycle paths and bridleways on their land. 

A Defra statement said: “This will reduce barriers to accessing green spaces and encourage more people to get out and explore England’s countryside, farmland and woodland, giving them a greater understanding of how our food is produced.”

There will be new actions on offer under the Environmental Land Management scheme to reward farmers who provide greater access to their land, including expansion of the Educational Access scheme.

Defra said this would create more opportunities for young people to learn about and engage with farming, forestry, food production, wildlife and the wider landscape.